Spring training and great expectations

In my 36 years of sportscasting, I have noticed there can be a big difference between hopes and expectations. As we all look ahead to Nationals baseball in 2013, it’s hard not to have both, and at a very high level. All of us at MASN are excited - and with good reason.

Two things happened in the last week or so that have me psyched to get to Viera, Fla. First, on a personal note, MASN gave me a new contract to continue as the Nats’ play-by-play man, so I look forward to my eighth season in the booth, and third with F.P. Santangelo. Second, MASN released the spring TV schedule, so we’re making travel and lodging arrangements, and getting into the baseball mindset. We’ll see the Mets, Cardinals, Astros, Tigers, Braves and Yankees on our schedule, but the special thing about spring training telecasts is simply getting back in the clubhouse and on the field with the guys, then in the booth to talk baseball.

I’ve been doing college basketball again this year and dabbling in local radio, but nothing gets me going like that first baseball telecast outside in the warm and breezy spring air.

You Nats fans will like Dan Haren, who I met when he came up to the majors years ago. When healthy, he’s a horse and, wow, what an arm to have as a so-called fifth starter. The rest of the rotation looks rock-solid, and I’m sure general manager Mike Rizzo will answer bullpen questions as we get closer to the spring.

Adam LaRoche is a proven RBI man and quiet clubhouse leader, and I’m glad he’s back. You can not overemphasize the importance of a great glove guy at first base - just ask Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman how important this man is on defense.

The outfield is crowded, and I hope there’s a way Michael Morse stays with us and contributes. “The Beast” is an important part of this club and a delight in the clubhouse. Denard Span will hopefully be the leadoff hitter the Nats have been looking for; if this man can register an on-base percentage of .350 or better, the offense will be among the league’s best.

As I look back to 2012 and the tough way the playoffs finished, one thing stays with me: You loyal fans deserved everything that went right with this team. You have suffered through some tough seasons and growing pains with a new ball club, and the playoffs were quite a high. National League Division Series Game 4 will live in our minds for a long time, a walkoff win that will be a building block to a winning tradition.

So get ready - 2013 may be something special.

Just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers!