The Crossroads of Imagination and Memory

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Curly W Live will be on-site in Viera next week providing a behind-the-scenes look at Nationals Spring Training. As we prepare for the launch of the 2012 baseball season, we hope you enjoy this guest post from Nationals fan Frank Cumberland Jr. and his reflections on what Spring Training means to him, and Nats fans everywhere.

“What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.”

Mary Jo Putney

As an amateur philosopher, I like to try and boil things down to their essentials. To name the essential elements that make a thing what it is. To test my definition and see if it withstands scrutiny. To find out if I’m a better philosopher than I was a baseball player.

Spring Training represents so many wonderful things: rejuvenation, visions of greatness, renewal of the national pastime, the pursuit of individual and team excellence, and a chance for frozen Nationals fans to thaw out in Florida for a few days. But what is Spring Training, at its very essence?

We are just days away from the return of baseball.

It is this: the crossroads of imagination and memory. One might think the Spring Training experience would mean one thing for the players, and something different to everyone else; umpires, coaches, ushers, or fans. But no. On or off the field, in uniform or out, no matter our age, we go to Spring Training to remember the beauty of baseball, and to imagine a bright future for the year ahead.

There is a poetic, mystical quality to the Nationals that no other professional team – in any sport – can match. We’ve had some rough spots in our baseball history. Teams have left us. We wandered in the wilderness for 33 years with no team at all. It is no wonder that imagination and memory are so much a part of Nationals fans memories. For the longest time, memories of past glory, and the hope of baseball’s return, were all we had. We had a past and a future, but no present. We were proof that Mary Jo Putney had it right – the baseball team we had learned to love as children would stay in our hearts forever.

Then our greatest hopes came to life and baseball returned to Washington. But it all began, as all baseball dreams must, in Spring Training.

Fans take in a Spring Training game in Viera.

While you’re at Spring Training (or at Nationals Park), watch the family interactions between generations of Nationals fans. You will see the crossroads of imagination and memory. You’ll see the diehard Washington Senators fans – the parents and grandparents – recalling the magic when Ted Williams managed the Nats to a winning season in 1969. You’ll hear them talk about how they kept the faith that baseball would return to Washington. And you’ll see the children and grandchildren, with their Harper and Zimmerman and Ramos jerseys, watching the game and dreaming of the Nats return to prominence in 2012 and beyond. It is memory and imagination, captured in one poetic picture frame.

A seven year-old boy who visited the Nats inaugural Spring Training in 2005 is 14 years old now. A 10 year-old girl who was at the Nationals inaugural home opener in 2005 is now 17. For this lucky generation of baseball fans, the Nationals in Spring Training 2012 are their memory and their imagination. This baseball miracle is happening before our eyes. We are standing at that beautiful crossroads.

10 Comments

How wonderful this sentiment is! You’ve helped make the three MORE days til pitchers & catchers report a little less onerous…

Beautiful article. Makes me want to go to spring training!

…”wandered in the wilderness…”- boy, ain’t that the truth?! I’m so pleased to have a team back in DC… It still feels like the Nationals just arrived! To mix holidays– the beginning of baseball season is akin to opening a Christmas gift…. (Or birthday :~)
Play Ball!!

This article brings back incredible memories of going to see the Senators in spring training in Pompano Beach, Florida. I went with my parents and grandparents, and we would have a three-day family reunion, all built around spring training. This was around 1965 or 1966.

I’m going to send this article to my whole family. It brings back such powerful memories, including loved ones who are gone now…

Baseball!! Spring Training! Sunshine! Memories!! Gooooooo Nationals! The best 25!!!!!

It is my philosophe that the fact that you can spell philosopher convinces me that you are a better philosofer than a baseball player. Of course I watched you play almost every day of our childhood. And no you don’t have a curve ball ! From your best pal ? Tim

I remember Jim Lemon, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Brinkman, Frank Howard, and so many others. Spring brings those guys back.

How about Jim King, Albie Pearson, Coot Veal, and Clint Courtney. Many thanks to those players for the great memories.

Do you know the name of the Senators’ pitcher who gave up the 565 foot home run to Mickel Mantle. It was Chuck Stobbs. He gave me his autograph. Mickey was too busy.

The Author Responds:

I want to address the comment made by my lifelong pal Tim Jones, above. He has only told half the story. He said that I don’t have a curve ball. That is true. What he neglected to tell readers is that I can’t hit a curve ball either.

I just want to get all the facts out.

Frank “Full Disclosure” Cumberland

Great article. I’m packing for Viera right now. Hope to see Jorge Bernardo and Victoria Michaels at Spring Training.

Best column on Spring Training I ever read.

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