You CAN go home again …
Lisa here …
I have been so derelict in my blogger duties I am almost embarrassed to show my cyberface here. I can only try to be a better blogger (or Better Blogger) in the future, if for no other reason than to keep Jonathan from giving me a (deserved) hard time for my inactivity.
Real spring-bordering-on-summer finally arrived in the Washington, D.C., area yesterday with warmth, humidity and weirdly sporadic downpours and sunshine, so now I know I can finally go to games and not be frozen by the seventh inning. Watch out world!
Tuesday I ventured down to what was once my second home, Richard Pfitzner Stadium (aka ?The Pfitz?), home of the Potomac Nationals. Except that when it was my second home, it wasn’t called Richard Pfitzner Stadium. And the team wasn’t called Potomac. Or the Nationals.
Back in the day, when I was just starting out my fledgling Minor League Baseball-writing career, it was just plain old Prince William County Stadium, home of the Prince William Cannons, Class A Carolina League farm team to the New York Yankees. I was the beat writer for the Cannons from 1989-1991 (and the first few weeks of the 1992 season as well) for the Potomac News in Woodbridge, Va.
I remember the first day on the beat, my second or third day in town, nervously driving into the stadium parking lot accompanied by my assistant editor, who had been covering the beat for the first few weeks of the season until I could move down from New York City to start my new job.
It was a rare early-season off day for the team but they’d been off to such a horrible start that their manager (Mark Wiedemaier, who is now an advance scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers) had them taking extra batting practice on a satellite field next to the stadium, and this is where I first met the players that I would get to know very well over the course of a long roller-coaster season.
By season’s end, they would have finished dead last in the first half, first in the second half, and would go on to upset the heavily favored Durham Bulls to win the Carolina League championship. Wiedemaier would be replaced at the helm in early summer by Stump Merrill, who would later go on to manage the Yankees.
I was a dedicated employee (I’d like to think my current bosses will not be surprised to hear that). I never missed a home game during the season and actually took a few road trips, sometimes on my own dime, to make sure I didn’t miss any big series. Of course, this was my last summer before motherhood and my husband worked nights so it wasn’t the hardship on my home or family that it might be if I tried to work every day now. Oh, that’s right, I do.
Anyway, before this becomes a column instead of a blog ? point being that I got to know just about every paint chip, ding in the dugout bench, divot in the infield at that park. I knew every nuance of the undeveloped stretch of back road that led up to the county complex where the stadium stood. I knew, and hated, the slippery metal stands with no banisters where I almost wiped out more than a few times after the perennial northern Virginia summer rainshowers. I could tell you what month it was by what bugs were in the air (and pitcher Frank Seminara could have too, since he once balked in the winning run when a moth flew into his mouth during his windup).
I left that job after three seasons, moving on to Baseball Weekly (which later added football and became Sports Weekly and then added NASCAR and eliminated its Minor League page and I came to MLB.com). Shortly thereafter I moved from Virginia to Maryland and found myself a half-hour from Frederick, which became my ?home Carolina League team? (something I could never have imagined when covering the Cannons, since the Keys and Cannons fans were bitter rivals – I don’t think the players could have cared less, but wow, those booster clubs hated each other).
I went back to Prince William once or twice, but the last time I’d been there was 1993. So to go back down there now, 13 years later, was ? well ? bizarre.
I am lucky I didn’t crash my car on the approach to the stadium, I was so busy looking around in awe and amazement. That back road, once nothing but scrub and trees, is now filled with shopping centers and high-end townhouses.
But you know what was even stranger? Once I drove into the parking lot, it was like time stood still. That walk up the path from parking lot to stadium? Nothing had changed. I walked into the stadium concourse and nothing had changed. I walked through the gate onto the field on the first base side and sat down on the bench in the dugout. Same benches, I swear. I sort of wished I had surreptitiously pulled a ?Kilroy was Here? kind of carving of my name on one of them back in 1989 so I could have double checked. Same cinderblock walls. Same tiny press box (though it looks like they’ve carpeted and laminated the desk part). I am pretty sure it’s the same seats.
Even the ladies room was the same (and the summer I was pregnant I saw a lot of that ladies room).
I assume the men’s room was too, but that was one corner of that stadium I never inspected. It did, indirectly, advance my career however: the team used to make copies of my game stories and features from the previous night and tape them up over the urinals. The Minor League editor at Baseball Weekly would come to games there and read my stories and was the one who encouraged me to apply for the job. So I guess you could say I got where I am because I had my name on men’s room walls.
Oh, I did notice one change. They painted this fuzzy green stuff on the stairs to make it less slippery. I wonder if someone did wipe out and threaten to sue?
In a way it was really neat to come in there and sit down in the dugout and look out at the field and feel like I was ? um ? young again (no, I am not giving away my age). And thin again (remember, summer pre-motherhood, my last hurrah as a svelte young thing).
I also, however, felt a little badly for the team. I know they have been fighting hard for a new stadium complex for awhile. And they see new stadiums being built all around them and attendance skyrocketing as a result.
Prince William ? oops, sorry, Potomac .. deserves a new stadium if that’s what they want. New stadium, spanking new clubhouses and nifty dugouts (with new benches), stands with banisters and non-slip surfaces. Seats with cupholders. A great press box for all my friends there where the home radio broadcaster and the visiting radio broadcaster can have separate booths, or at least a divider.
Maybe they’ll even name a urinal in my honor.
(Hey, is this the first time we’ve written the word “urinal” in a blog?)