Go read deep enough into my Twitter feed or maybe even somewhere on this site and you will find a written record of me complaining about Pfitzner Stadium, the home park of the Potomac Nationals, but last season I didn’t complain as much. I looked forward to every trip to the Pfitz and I enjoyed all the time I spent there. Before the game you will be blinded no matter where you are sitting because the sun sets directly in center field. On hot days the metal bleachers will heat to a temperature hotter than the sun. And speaking of those metal bleachers they will carve out giant ridges in your ass. If you’re looking for a comfortable experience full of amenities then the Pfitz is not for you, but unlike newer minor league stadiums that feel very much like miniature major league parks the Pfitz is nothing if not minor league.
It is in the midst of this long winter that I have come to realize I love the Pfitz. As I sit at home missing baseball and longing to find myself sitting in the warm sun and watching players swing, run, and field with athletic action the place I picture myself the most is down the right field line of the Pfitz. Those hard steel hot bleacher seats are where I wish to watch baseball, and it is not because the baseball is that great. The Potomac Nationals are not due for a big influx of talent and there are scheduled to be no prospects of the status of Harper or Strasburg there to start the season, but what it does offer is a unique minor league perspective of baseball.
When thinking of minor league baseball one of the first thoughts in most baseball fan’s minds will involve the movie Bull Durham. Think about what that film represented. In all aspects minor league baseball was the opposite of major league baseball. It was a group of unheralded players playing in a small stadium not much better than a high school field. The Pfitz is one of the last few remaining minor league parks. There are just as many minor league teams as there have always been but most of them play in stadiums with the same seats you’d find in a major league park with the same concessions and the same retro brick look. Comfort and amenities are of the most importance when these stadiums were built and it is increasingly likely that the Potomac Nationals will be getting one of these shiny cookie cutter stadiums in the next few years.
Stadiums like this lack character. They are comfortable and full of gourmet food options. The Pfitz doesn’t offer this. You can get a hot dog, a lager, and the best funnel cake you’ve ever tasted, and for most baseball fans this should be enough. The minor league feel of the stadium only helps to add to the general reality of the minor leagues. No matter where you are watching minor league baseball you’ll be far closer to the players. No matter where you’re sitting you’ll be no more than 30 or 40 feet from the field. The Pfitz is smaller than some of the larger minor league stadiums but it is on par in occupancy for the Carolina League. Combining the facts of the minor league with the stadium known as the Pfitz makes it the furthest from the majors as one can get.
It is for these reasons that when I picture myself watching baseball it isn’t in the upper deck of Nationals Park but it is instead on the uncomfortable bleachers of the Pfitz. Being comfortable is wonderful and all, but most people could use a little discomfort in their lives, and when that discomfort is found with the distraction of baseball no less than 20 feet away it is the most wonderful type of discomfort. The Pfitz gives the minor leagues that minor league feel of baseball stripped down to the bare bones. It is metal bleachers, green grass, brown clay, and a wooden outfield wall. The Pfitz offers a stark contrast to the comforts of Nationals Park, and that is the way it should be. When looking to escape the major leagues and simply enjoy baseball for the sake of baseball there is nothing better than heading to a place where the minor leagues are truly minor league, and in a world increasingly concerned with constant comfort the Pfitz is one of the last remaining places where that can be done.
The home opener for the Potomac Nationals is April 8 and there is no day I am looking forward to more. It is on that date that I will go sit on cold steel bleachers with my hot dog, lager, and funnel cake, and enjoy a game of baseball where it isn’t about who wins or loses but how the players develop. That is what the minor leagues is about and the Pfitz is the most minor league place that remains.