Pfitzner Stadium in 2016 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
I noted yesterday, that the Potomac Nationals are playing their last home game of the season tonight; it’s their last game as the P-Nats and their last game at Pfitzner Stadium (lovingly referred to as “the Pfitz”). The team is moving to Fredericksburg, VA, and changing their name for the 2020 season. So it is truly the end of an era.
The Prince William Pirates, as they were called at the time, moved to what was then known as Davis Ford Park when it first opened in 1984. The stadium, which is located in Woodbridge, VA (in Prince William County), was renamed in 1986 to Prince William County Stadium and again in 1995, when it was became G. Richard Pfizner Stadium. (Pfitzner was a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and had been instrumental in getting the team to move to the county.) The stadium was never fancy, not even for 1984 standards. The bleachers and grandstand have the type of metal seats you see at a high school field – even in the reserved sections. There are a few box seats that are a little more upgraded – to the plastic type you see at most ballparks. Fans enter the seating area be ascending metal stairs to a sort of raised metal platform/concourse. When the crowd cheers – or someone just walks by a bit too fast – it seems like the whole thing is shaking.
During the 2011 season, the P-Nats had to postpone some games and moved some “home” games to nearby Frederick, Maryland, when the field was deemed “unplayable” by Minor League Baseball officials. This really wasn’t the stadium’s fault – a new drainage system had been installed, and the grass hadn’t finished growing back in time for the beginning of the season. The following year, the entire field was replaced (and a full-time groundskeeper hired) and improvements were made to P-Nats clubhouse (but not the visitors’ clubhouse?).
Visitors’ dugout at Pfitzner Stadium in 2011 (that’s Manny Machado batting for the Frederick Keys, by the way)
Unfortunately, in June 2012, a fire at the stadium destroyed the team’s business office. The rest of the stadium was undamaged and there were no injuries, except to the mascot’s costume. (Don’t worry, though, Uncle Slam was fine for the next season.) However, by then, the team was ramping up their efforts to seek a new ballpark, which they had been wanting for years. As negotiations with Prince William County continued to drag out over the next several years, the team argued that the stadium failed to meet Minor League Baseball standards. By 2017, when the team extended its lease through 2020, a new stadium deal still had not been worked out.
In June 2018, the P-Nats owner, Art Silber, announced that he had signed a letter of intent to move his team to a new stadium in Fredericksburg, VA. Later that year, the Fredericksburg city council approved the deal. Potomac Baseball, LLC, was given the green light to build a stadium in the city. While the team will finance and build the stadium, the city will be an “anchor tenant” – meaning they will pay the club $1.05 million every year for 30 years, which will be paid for through proceeds made from stadium operations. A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the stadium site in Fredericksburg on February 24, 2019, although work on the stadium was not scheduled to begin until July. Although the team plans to move in to the stadium, according to reports, the deal between the city and the team does not require the stadium to be ready until April 2021. (So maybe there’s a chance they will still be in Woodbridge next year?)
But this post is not about Fredericksburg. It’s about Woodbridge and the P-Nats, and the Pfitz. As the community says goodbye to their team this evening, they’ll forget about the uncomfortable seats and revel in the memories of having had a minor league baseball team to call their own.