Pfitzner Stadium may be on its last legs (a new stadium has been proposed for 2015), but despite somewhat spartan accommodations, this can still be a great place to see a ballgame. As the big club Nationals have improved, interest in the farm teams has grown, as well. This park is less than 30 miles southwest of Nationals Park, and offers an outstanding value for the baseball fan who perhaps can’t afford good seats in DC.
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Doing a little reconnaissance on food options before heading out to the game, I was told to be on the lookout for their specialty sausages, particularly the spicy cheese brat and half-smokes from Soul Wings, a local vendor. At first I circled the park, and could not find them. No one at the main concession stand knew what I was talking about, although they were very helpful in their efforts. Eventually, I realized that just to the right of the main concession stand, there was a small unmarked window with a small paper sign. Although there was absolutely no line, this was the specialty counter I was looking for!
The cheese brat is good, but the half-smoke sausages are by far superior, and there is a nice selection. Good snap and spice. They charge a little extra for grilled onions and peppers, but the charge is totally worth it.
The standard hot dog is decent, as well. Beer selections include a fair amount of local microbrews. A preview listing of the plans for the new park looks as though they will take the food more seriously, most likely based on upgraded and expanded equipment and capacity.
Even though you're in a DC suburb, and the park is located only a few miles off I-95 and the adjoining suburban sprawl, this park feels isolated and "small-town", and that's a good thing. People who come to these games know that they are on in a bit of a secret, and the publicity and visibility of a shiny new ballpark project will bring out a new class of clientele.
The good news is that -- until the new ballpark opens, anyway -- you have a true ballpark crowd. It feels local, and is primarily a local experience. Premium seats are extremely close to the field... as close as I've ever been to the first base bag, and there's a good collegial atmosphere between players, staff and fans.
The park adjoins an area of significant suburban sprawl, so within a short drive, there are any number of franchise dining and lodging options, but nothing really within walking distance. The ballpark is also set off the main road and somewhat downhill and out of site, buffered by its own sea of parking. This also adds to the charm of finding a bit of a hidden secret.
The fans in attendance are great. They are plugged in to the game experience, including their knowledge of the players and the plight of the mascot, Uncle Slam. In 2012, the Uncle Slam costume was destroyed in a small press box fire, and although no one was hurt, the mascot was placed on the 60- day DL.
However, I have to mark down for the absence of so many fans on Opening Day. It was a clear and somewhat chilly night, but the posted attendance of 2,918 is extremely generous. I'd be surprised if actual turnstile count exceeded 1,200.
Access to the park is primarily by car, but there are numerous main highways that feed into the area, making it a pretty easy drive from all directions. DC area traffic can make a snarl of anything, though, so it's nice to have a few options. Parking is on a private lot for $5 a car. The lot includes a significant amount of unpaved gravel, which was still primarily in use despite the small crowd.
This kind of minor league experience ("rustic" as described by a P-Nats staffer) is disappearing as new parks replace older, more spartan facilities. I think there's a need for a full-spectrum of experiences, though, so this is at times a refreshing change of pace from the current state of the art designs. Prices are low, seats are close, food is affordable and baseball and entertainment abound. Soon, you'll only get this kind of game day in short-season ball, or college summer wood bat leagues, so enjoy it while you can.
There's not a lot of what I would deem as extras, but what there was added to the experience. There's a small kids zone (slide, speed pitch, etc) behind the first base stands. The premium rows behind first base include wait service, which was attentive without being obtrusive. Everyone loves Uncle Slam, especially the kids.
While it was not in place for my visit, I'm told they have a sponsor for a "home run boat". They'll be installing a boat behind the RF fence, and if a player hits a ball in the boat, he'll win the boat, and a lucky fan will win a prize pack. This kind of reminds me of hitting the bull in Durham, and should be a lot of fun for fans as hitters start to come close.
"The Pfitz" is nearly 30 years old, and it's going out with some style. Unlike some other situations, where I've seen teams abandon their park "in place", the staff of the P-Nats still creates atmosphere and cares about the experience. Check it out while you still can. I'm sure the new park will be great and draw larger crowds, but I think I'll miss this one too.
Pfitzner Stadium was originally built in 1984 and has hosted minor league baseball ever since. The stadium is currently home to the Potomac Nationals, a Class A team of the parent Washington Nationals. The stadium has a capacity of 6,000.
The stadium has experienced a few upgrades in recent years, including field box seats, a video scoreboard and a rebuilt playing surface. Pfitzner Stadium has been a stop on many journeys of future MLB All-Stars on their way to the majors, including Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Albert Pujols. Plaques to these and other notables can be found on the Hall of Fame wall right inside the main gate upon entering the stadium.
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