Potomac Nationals’ field causes 3-way spat

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The park authority’s executive director, Jay Ellington, didn’t agree with Mr. Rizzo’s assessment of the field conditions as “dangerous” but conceded it needs work.

“They better be careful what they say about Prince William County,” Mr. Stewart said. “It only takes one statement to [anger] the residents of Prince William County and this government and really hurt their ticket sales.”

The current issue, Mr. Ellington said, is the recent replacement of outfield sod. Because of a lack of the suppliers, the quality of the sod was not ideal. Troubles also arose after two underground drainage systems were finished this spring and the lines did not properly grass over.

In April, Potomac’s three-game series with the Keys was shifted to Frederick because of the problem with the drainage lines. Mr. Silber said the games were moved at his suggestion. A Washington source refuted that claim, saying the organization was the one to deem the field unplayable for the series.

Bryce Harper, Washington’s top prospect, was promoted this month from low Class A Hagerstown to Double-A Harrisburg. Mr. Rizzo has maintained that concerns about Potomac’s field played no role in his decision to have Harper skip high Class-A. Several highly regarded Nationals prospects, including pitcher Sammy Solis and outfielder Destin Hood, are at Potomac.

“We realize this field has not been graded the best in the league and is probably on the bottom of the list for a number of years,” Mr. Ellington of the parks authority said. “It needs some renovations. It does not meet a couple of the standards.”

Perhaps the biggest issue is that the drainage elevation from second base into the outfield is out of line. Fixing that requires removing all outfield sod, significant amounts of soil and disconnecting the drainage and irrigation systems. Mr. Ellington is searching for a way to fund the project.

“Minor League Baseball representatives have been working closely with Potomac Nationals officials on ballpark issues since last fall,” a statement from Minor League Baseball to The Times said. “These types of issues are not uncommon with older facilities like Pfitzner Stadium.”

The Carolina League did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Potomac’s lease with the county runs through Dec. 31, 2015, but Mr. Silber is eyeing a new ballpark. Though plans have floated for years - such as the $10.7 million proposal for a stadium in the county’s 2004 capital improvement program - Mr. Silber said he will announce a privately funded stadium in the next 30 days.

Mr. Stewart confirmed the plan for a 7,000-seat facility near Interstate 95 in Prince William County. Pfitzner Stadium holds 6,000. Mr. Silber estimates the stadium will cost $25 million. Neither would divulge the location. The county may be involved in the construction of dual-use parking garages for the stadium and commuters and providing public land, but it won’t finance the stadium.

Mr. Stewart and Mr. Silber said they hope the stadium will be ready in 2013 or 2014, barring environmental problems with the site. But hard feelings in Prince William County over last week’s events and its field being labeled “dangerous” haven’t eased.

“They were really ignorant,” said Mr. Stewart, who went on to call for Mr. Rizzo’s ouster as general manager. “I’m extremely - and I have to emphasize that - extremely unhappy and angered.”

Said Mr. Silber: “In any long-term marriage, you’re going to have disagreements and arguments. But our commitment to the [Washington] Nationals and them to us is certainly on a long-term basis. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to reserve the right to disagree with each other and sometimes have some pretty sharp differences.”

• Amanda Comak contributed to this report.

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