These are pretty awesome times right now for the Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, which just happens to play about 25 miles from homeplate at Nationals Park.
The Potomac Nationals, the Carolina League affiliate for Washington, play in Woodbridge, an uncorporated area of Prince William County, a suburb of our nation’s capital. Prince William County is one of the wealthier communities in the country, due in part to a business friendly atmosphere as well as being in the shadow of our nation’s capital.
Prince William County does a lot to take care of its residents, but it also does a lot to welcome visitors. The burgeoning Virginia wine industry includes a winery near Haymarket. The Manassas Battlefield is the site of the very first battle of the Civil War. The nationally recognized Virginia State Park system includes one, Leesylvania SP, in Woodbridge. The National Museum of the Marine Corps honors America’s finest.
Prince William County is also one of about 160 communities across North America that host minor league baseball. The Potomac Nationals play in Woodbridge, and they are delighting fans right now with their winning ways. They also lead the Carolina League with 13 walkoff wins.
Having won the first-half North division title, Potomac is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. That first half title has resulted in a number of promotions of key players to Double-A, but in a testament to the improvement of the Nationals farm system in recent years, the team has kept winning with all the new players that have been added from Low-A Hagerstown. Manager Tripp Keister has kept the team on its winning ways with all the turnover, and as a result Potomac enters the final month of the regular season with a 1 1/2 game lead in the division. Should Potomac hold on and win this title as well, the entire Best-of-3 first round would be held in Woodbridge.
Helping out this surge has been a number of players who, of course have since moved on to Double-A: Derek Self, John Simms, Adrian Sanchez, Austin Voth, Oscar Tejeda, etc. But the team still has some core people. 1B Shawn Pleffner and SS Stephen Perez were Carolina League all-stars this year. 3B Khayyan Norfork has shown a lot of brilliance with his play, and recently pitched out of the bullpen when a game went to 16 innings. OF Isaac Ballou, a DC-area native like Pleffner, looks like a pretty decent hitter. OF Randolph Oduber has stepped up his game. RH Gilberto Mendez and LHs Bryan Harper (Bryce’s brother) and Jake Walsh have been outstanding out of the bullpen.
So the Potomac Nationals are in pretty good shape for the stretch run and the postseason. Hopefully, the big club will respect this affiliate and give us some help for the playoffs, but this team will be competitive after Labor Day, when Potomac begins their playoff drive. This will be the 5th time in 7 seasons that playoff baseball will be here in Woodbridge.
Potomac won the Carolina League titles in 2008 and 2010, and went to the finals in 2013, but got swept by Salem.