Potomac Nationals History
Potomac Nationals History
by Malcolm MacMillan
- Team has had seven names since 1978
- Four-time Carolina League champs
Professional baseball in Alexandria dates back to 1978 and in the three-plus decades since, the present day Potomac Nationals have had seven names and seven Major League Baseball affiliations. The present-day Potomac Nationals (or P-Nats, as they're often called) began life as Alexandria Dukes, based in nearby Alexandria, VA. The Dukes joined the four-team Carolina League and played at a modest park belonging to the Alexandria City School District. (Because the facility was owned by the school district, the Dukes couldn't serve beer at their games.) The team didn't have a Major League affiliate, and finished last in the league in its inaugural season.
The franchise was affiliated with the Seattle Mariners in 1979 and changed its name to the Alexandria Mariners for the season. The affiliation with the Mariners lasted just one year, and the team's name was reverted to the Dukes in time for the 1980 season. The team was unaffiliated that year, but the Pittsburgh Pirates came on board in 1981 and the franchise has been affiliated ever since.
After playing as the Dukes from 1980 to 1983, the affiliation with Pittsburgh prompted another name change that coincided with the team being relocated. The team was moved to Woodbridge, where it still plays, and renamed the Prince William Pirates. With the move to Woodbridge, the team moved into the ballpark currently known as G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium.
The affiliation with the Pirates lasted through the 1986 season, and when the New York Yankees became the franchise's parent club, another name change was in order. The Prince William Yankees played in 1987 and 1988 before changing their name to the Prince William Cannons. That name lasted through the rest of the affiliation with the Yankees up to the end of the 1993 season, and through a three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox (1994 to 1996).
The St. Louis Cardinals picked up the team in 1997 and ran it through the 2002 season. In 1999, the name was changed to the Potomac Cannons. The Cincinnati Reds called the shots in 2003 and 2004 before a significant year for the franchise in 2005. That year, the team was picked up by the nearby Washington Nationals and renamed the Potomac Nationals.
Despite all the name and affiliation changes, the team has had a moderate degree of success, especially during recent years. The team won division titles in 1982, 1989, 1991, 1995, 2004, 2008 and 2010, and Carolina League titles in 1982, 1989, 2008 and 2010. Throughout the club's tenure, it has seen a number of Major League stars come through its ranks.