Pfitzner Stadium, Woodbridge, VIRGINIA
Number of states: still 21
States to go: 29
First game: August 19, 2006 (Kinston Indians 6, Potomac Nationals 1)
Way, way, way out into the DC suburbs is a tiny minor-league ballpark. While the occupants try to get a new ballpark every year, they continue to return to this run-of-the-mill field that’s a part of a high school complex in Woodbridge, Virginia. It’s uncertain how much longer they’ll remain, but I got in a game in at Pfitzner Stadium during the summer of 2006.
The ballpark itself is fairly nondescript. It does not pass the “do we have any idea where we are” test…I saw no evidence we were in Virginia or near Washington DC. We honestly could have been anywhere. The ballpark is charmless as well. There’s too much netting around the infield. I lost virtually all memory of the place within a few months. But, and for the first time, the part that troubled me the most was the way that the team’s owner actually interfered with my enjoyment of a game.
I don’t mind some wackiness and promotions as a part of my minor league baseball experience. But it cannot interfere with the baseball on the field. Art Silber, the owner of the Nationals, did just that. Apparently, on Saturday nights, Silber coaches first base for the team…and he did for the first half of the game or so, before taking a seat behind home plate in his baseball uniform. This bugged me in the extreme. What we have here are players and coaches who are trying to work their way up towards the major leagues, and Silber is interfering with that goal for each of them. I’m not certain what or how much a first-base coach contributes, but the idea that this guy is living out some long-unaccomplishable fantasy at the expense of people who still have a legitimate shot at making the bigs…well, that bugged me. He might say he’s showing his love of the game; I say it shows he’s not taking the game seriously. What if a young rich person (like Master P a few years ago, or maybe Marc Cuban) bought a minor league team and decided that, rather than coaching first base, he wanted to play first base? Why is that any less ridiculous? Mr. Silber, you’re out of line. You interfered with the baseball.
On the other side of the coin, I don’t much mind if players take jobs that normally go to others. Steve Mortimer sang the national anthem. He was nervous…probably more nervous than he was playing first base that day. It made me root for him all the more…we don’t have enough Renaissance men like that in the world.
Probably the best part of my trip was getting to hang out with Tom. We found ourselves a seat away from some others, and we said wacky stuff to each other throughout the game. That’s just the way it happens. He told me a good deal about Virginia politics. We also had a lot of fun making up personalities for the players. Singing Mortimer was easy, of course, but it went further. J.D. Martin was pitching for the Indians, and since it was his first game for Kinston, we decided just to call him “New Guy.” We imagined his fellow Indians getting annoyed having to tell him how the copier worked, or carefully telling him which guys are the cool ones and which ones are the dorks to avoid. A relief pitcher, Cody Bunkelman…well, he was fantastic. Just awesome. I caught a particularly resistant strain of Bunkelmania that day. Tom thought I was insane. He didn’t see Bunkelmania spreading across the nation. I certainly do.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of this ballpark is that now, only a few months after going to the ballgame, I’ve forgotten almost everything about the ballpark. So I will finish this not with words, but with a couple more pictures.
Regional feel: 4/10
Not much. Only a local Congressman’s pitch and Uncle Slam save the score at all.
Nothing too special.
Rule #1: Don’t let your spectacle interfere with the baseball. The owner coaching…well, that interferes. But I did like the player singing the anthem.
Team mascot/name: 3/5
Uncle Slam and me. I like puns, so this name works. But the team name? Why not stick with “Cannons”? So much better.
Some nice trees, but the ballpark itself is quite dull.
Pavilion area: 3/5
Props to my buddy Tom.
It was a fun night, but the owner bugged me.
Four Indians pitchers–J.D. “New Guy” Martin, Cody Bunkelman, Ryan Knippschild, and Randy Newsom–combine on a 4-hitter, allowing no earned runs. Martin strikes out 4 in 4 innings, giving up two hits. Bunkelman pitches two perfect innings in relief, striking out three and picking up his third win of the year.
Rodney Choy Foo, Nathan Panther, and Matt Whitney homer for the Indians.
Steve Mortimer goes 1-for-3 with a double for the Nationals.(Written December 2006.)