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Meet James Hartley, Super Fan
With the official start of spring training, baseball fever is among us and it is contagious! It had been thirty-three long years without baseball in Washington when the Nationals came to town in 2005 to whet the appetites of starving baseball fans. And with the sweet taste of success still in their mouths from a 2012 season that abruptly shut down the Nats in the first round of the playoffs, fans are already talking World Series. But what’s so fascinating about Washington baseball anyway?
Sixty-four year old Jim Hartley is a self-described baseball fanatic. “I started to love baseball when I was about seven years old. I was born into a family of baseball fanatics. It was a tradition. I used to watch the Senators with my grandfather and he would explain the game to me,” he reminisced.
Hartley has written three self-published books about the history of baseball in Washington and is working on two more. He is also the head of the Washington Baseball Historical Society, which produces a quarterly newsletter for members called Nats News.
“Baseball is important to Washington. It’s not just a sport. It’s a summer event. It starts in April and goes on into October, if the team is lucky enough,” explained Hartley sporting his replica 1963 Washington Senators curly W debut cap. “It’s the excitement of the ballpark, or Sunday afternoon cookouts with baseball on the radio in the background.”
Hartley talks about baseball with a sense of wonder. His devotion to celebrating the present and preserving the past in his books is clear.
“Every time I go to the ballpark I see something new—something amazing. Seven months of baseball is like seven weeks to me, and because I love it so much, I want to share it.”
While researching for his books (1997- 2008) he had the opportunity to interview some veteran baseball players that were his childhood heroes–players like Frank Howard, Jim Lemon and, especially his idol, Roy Sievers. “It made me feel good that the guys that I worshiped as a kid were worth the adulation. They were just nice guys, really good people.”
Hartley feels like there is really no comparison between the days of the Washington Senators and baseball today. “It’s a whole new ball game as Bob Short put it in 1969,” he quipped. “There’s a big difference. The media coverage is far more extensive now. It has just exploded. There are no secrets anymore.”
Even so, Hartley is crazy about the Nats. He and his wife, Lisa, are season ticket holders. Last year he was asked to make a prediction about the 2012 season. “I thought the Nats would win 87 games last year. They exceeded my expectations, won 98 regular season games and went to the playoffs. As for this year, I don’t want to make a prediction. I definitely think they are playoff bound, but I don’t want to jinx them.”
And what does Hartley say to those who feel that the game of baseball is boring and slow-paced, void of ferocious sacks or bone chilling checks against the boards? His answer is short and pointed.
“Anyone who thinks baseball is boring doesn’t know the game.”
The Washington Nationals will start the regular season with their 80th home opener since 1901 on Monday, April 1 vs. Miami. And, clad in Nats attire and joined by thousands of eager, hungry Washington baseball fans, the Hartleys will be there.
Purchase his latest book, “Baseball Is Back The Washington Nationals 2005 Inaugural Season” on Amazon.