How ready is Ken Whitaker for the return of major league baseball to Washington? So ready that he's willing to give away his most treasured possession.

"I will give back the 335-foot sign that hung on the right field wall in RFK (Stadium)," writes Ken. "I got the sign at the last home game against the Yankees in 1971, but if that is what it will take to get a new team, then I will gladly part with it."

How ready is Mary Forman of Marlow Heights? "I'm a lifelong Democrat, and I'm still weeping for Mondale," she writes. "But I'd still pay to watch Reagan throw out the first pitch."

How ready is Russell Shew of Silver Spring? "With a baseball team here, I would probably cancel my tentative plans to finish my engineering degree at the U. of Michigan or some school in California."

And how ready is Mark Jepson of Northwest? "I'd even pay real money for a cold hot dog and a warm beer. I don't care. Do you hear me? I don't care! JUST BRING BACK BASEBALL!"

The fans have spoken, and they've left absolutely no doubt. In response to the survey I published here on Oct. 30, the near-unanimous feeling among nearly 2,000 respondents is that 13 years without baseball is too long. We've earned time off for good behavior. We need/want/demand/deserve a team.

Selections from the letters atop my desk:

"All we have are memories, sometimes garbled or fading, or watching the Orioles, which for me is less like kissing your sister than it is like kissing a battle axe aunt." -- Ted Hudson of Alexandria.

"I am not especially a baseball fan, but I have two teenage sons who would do almost anything to have a local team. And they could ride Metro to games without a slightly bored mother along." -- Susan Rittenberg.

"Maybe showing the movie 'Damn Yankees' once in a while would bring out the old nostalgia. The National Boh scoreboard in the background gets to me every time I see it." -- Dave Stegman of Chevy Chase.

"Get cracking! I'm 73!" -- Donald Doane of Woodley Park.

"Who are the Capitals and the Bullets? Do they play baseball?" -- John J. White Jr. of Arlington.

"I remember a vendor at the Senators' games who was a delightful character. In the late innings, he used to yell out, 'There is still time!' He did it at the very last Senators game at RFK. Some people even cried at that time. I didn't. I was too angry." -- Robert A. Dublin of Annandale.

"I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved the Washington Senators. Hondo, Casey Cox, Darold Knowles, Del Unser, Eddie Brinkman -- those are names that are forever etched in my memory. I remember the time that my girl friend and I went to the game when the city was in turmoil over Martin Luther King's assassination. There was no black/white racism in that stadium, only fellow baseball fans rooting for their home team." -- Jean Hendrick of Arlington.

"Yes, I'd support the team, even if it were a loser. The great thing about baseball is that it's played every day. Yesterday's loss is quickly forgotten." -- Jim McCarthy of Chevy Chase.

"I remember one game going into extra innings. We had to call home to say we'd be late. Upon completion of the call, we got our dime back. God, we thought that was the neatest thing. Needless to say, the moment we got our dime back the other team hit a homer. Fond memories!" -- Francesca Avelleyra of Silver Spring.

Finally, this critical question from Thomas J. Bulger:

"How do I explain to a three-year-old son that baseball isn't played in our nation's capital?"

With the sort of enthusiasm that's out there, Tom, you may not have to hunt for an answer much longer.