Thursday night will mark the end of an era: the Potomac Nationals (lovingly referred to as the P-Nats) will play their last game in Pfitzner Stadium. After 25 years, the team is moving from Woodbridge, VA, to a stadium far, far away (at least for me) in Fredericksburg, VA. Last Saturday, I saw what just might have been my last P-Nats game. It was an emotional night.
The Potomac Nationals entered this world as the Alexandria Dukes in 1978, an expansion team in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. That first season, they were a co-op team, meaning they weren’t affiliated with any one MLB team, but had players from more than one team. They were affiliated with the Seattle Mariners in 1979 (and known as the Alexandria Mariners), but were a co-op team again in 1980. From 1981 to 1983, they were affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I didn’t know the team then, but I wish I did. Alexandria Dukes players included Mickey Mantle, Jr.; Rick Renteria; Bobby Bonilla; Rafael Belliard; and Joe Orsulak (a future Oriole). They even won the Carolina League Championship in 1982.
The Dukes played in Municipal Stadium at Four Mile Run Park in Alexandria. According to Baseball Reference, “The ballpark was of high school caliber, with metal stands seating around 1,500 with a few metal folding chairs standing in for box seats, and almost no facilities or concessions (the team was prohibited from selling alcohol because the park was on land belonging to an elementary school).” Not surprisingly, then, the team announced it would be moving after the 1983 season.
The stadium formerly known as Davis Ford Park (named after the main road to the stadium) was built in 1984. It is located in Woodbridge, VA, adjacent to the McCoart Government Center. It was to this 6,000 seat stadium that the newly re-named Prince William Pirates made their home after moving from Alexandria for the 1984 season.
In 1987, the team changed Major League affiliations and became known as the Prince William Yankees. Prospects like Hensley Meulens, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Brad Ausmus, and Bernie Williams, played on the team. In 1989, the team changed its name to the Prince William Cannons, but maintained its affiliation with the Yankees until 1994 when it became the class-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The team changed affiliations again 1997 (St. Louis Cardinals) and 2003 (Cincinnati Reds). Thus, more future stars played for Prince William, including: Magglio Ordonez, Albert Puljos, Coco Crisp, and Joey Votto.
According to the team’s website, the team rebranded in 1999 as the Potomac Cannons, “to better represent their fan base, which covers much of the Northern Virginia region.” They became the Potomac Nationals in 2005, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, DC, becoming the Washington Nationals and the Major League affiliate of the P-Nats.
Tomorrow, as the team celebrates its last night at the Pfitz, I’ll post a little more about the old stadium, the new stadium, and the end of an era.