After a breakout performance that saw him hit .404, with a league-leading 36 hits and 23 runs scored, Barbe alumnus Josh Prince has earned a spot in the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training camp. He is also a part of their 40-man roster. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:54 PM
Each fall, thousands flock to Arizona to get away from the impending cold of the North and East, or to retire to the quiet pace the desert has to offer.
Josh Prince went to Arizona for the opposite reasons.
He was looking to make a fast impression on his bosses.
Prince did just that.
The Barbe High graduate showed off his skills during the Arizona Fall League, a baseball division for up-and-comers.
Prince was so impressive he jumped all the way to the 40-man roster of the Milwaukee Brewers. That means he will get an extra-long look this spring at training camp.
“This is exciting, to get to play against the best and to compete for a job,” Prince said.
This will be his first camp with the big league in Phoenix, but he should feel pretty comfortable in the desert. It was there, last fall, where he showed just what type of player he can be and how quickly he was becoming that.
While playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Prince showed his versatility, playing six different positions during the short season. That makes you very valuable to a club and also turns more than a few heads.
“His versatility is going to be his calling card to get to the big leagues,” Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin told MLB.com.
But that is not all. Prince’s bat also caught the eye of the Brewers’ brass.
During his 25 games in Arizona, Prince hit a whopping .404, good for second-best in the league. His 36 hits were tops while tying for the lead in runs scored with 23.
He also improved his base stealing ability, swiping 10 bags in 14 tries.
“He has had a very good year,” Darnell Coles told MLB.com. Coles was Prince’s manager in the summer with the Huntsville Stars manager and Phoenix Desert Dogs hitting coach.
What helped impress Coles was the way Prince took to his new position in centerfield.
“Coming from playing shortstop to the outfield this year is tough,” Coles said. “A lot of it was learning on the spot and he is still learning but he has done a very good job as an outfielder. Being able to play these positions adds value to our organization and to him as a player. If a guy gets hurt, you know he can fill in defensively wherever and you don’t have to worry about it. Plus his bat and base running are great.”
Coles spent last summer getting Prince to perfect his batting style and becoming a solid leadoff hitter. It worked, as Prince finished the fall with a .491 on-base percentage.
Last summer in Double-A Huntsville, Prince hit .251. Now, the hope is last fall will lead to a good spring and a trip to Triple-A, where the 26-year-old will be one call away from the big show.
“I feel like I am close,” said Prince. “I am ready to get to camp and show again what I can do.”
Since this is his first big-league camp, a fresh set of eyes will be on him. Also, by moving to the 40-man roster, the Brewers have made an investment in Prince and he doesn’t want to let them down.
“Moving on the roster shows that the effort and the time I have put in is paying off,” Prince said. “I feel like I am being rewarded for the work I have put in.”
However, he is quick to point out he has gotten a lot of help along the way, and says everybody that has helped can share in his rise up the Brewer ladder.
“This says a lot for my brothers who worked with me on my swing and my family who supported me and all the coaches who have helped me along the way,” Prince said. “It shows them that their hard work is paying off too. I could not have done this or been where I am without their help.”
The road has not been an easy one for Prince.
After Barbe he spent a year at Texas before transferring to Tulane, where after the 2009 season he was Milwaukee’s third-round draft pick.
Injuries have also slowed his progress, as a separated shoulder and torn groin have cost him parts of pro seasons. However, Prince believes the early struggles have made him stronger and ready for this spring’s opportunities.
“You learn to deal with different coaches, different players and different situations,” he said. “You also learn how to deal with failure and success. You have a lot of failure in baseball so how you handle that is just as important as how you handle success.”
Not bad for a kid that learned how to ride a bull before he was a teenager. Prince comes from a rodeo family, which he now thinks is a blessing.
“Growing up around the rodeo makes you a little tougher than most,” he said. “When you climb on a bull and ride him for the first time when you are 12 you have to be tough. Not everybody can do that.”
Most wouldn’t even dare to try.
And that toughness has not been lost on the Brewers.
“He is one tough kid,” said Coles. “He will try anything and give it his all.”
Prince hopes his toughness and hard work this spring in the desert leave the impression he is ready for Milwaukee this summer.