Just a two hour plane flight is all that separates Sulphur native Josh Prince from the next step in his athletic career.
Prince, a former Barbe High School and Tulane University standout, is headed to Phoenix, Arizona today for spring training with a chance to make the 25-man Major League Baseball opening day roster for the Milwaukee Brewers.
“As a kid I always thought I would play in the big leagues,” Prince said. “It has always been a dream. “The closer you get to it, it becomes a reality.
“You feel good about yourself because of all the time and effort that you have put in and all the people that have helped me. To see the expressions on their faces and feel the excitement in their voices that gives me more drive to make the 25-man roster and play the big leagues.”
Prince was drafted by the Brewers in the third round back in 2009 but was still looking for his chance at the big leagues as he entered the 2012 season with the Double-A Huntsville (Alabama) Stars. Prince was approaching his fifth year when MLB clubs either have to sign drafted players to the roster or let another team sign them.
In Huntsville, Prince put up the best numbers of his career with seven homeruns, 55 RBIs, 41 steals with a .251 batting average.
“It all started with my manger,” Prince said. “I had a manager that had confidence in me and allowed me to play the game the way I play; high paced, high intensity. “
Then came the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Prince led the league with 36 hits, was second in batting average at .404, second in stolen bases (10), third in one base percentage (.491) and scored 23 runs.
“Going into the fall league, it was a coin flip if they were going to do it or not,” Prince said. “Once I played in the fall league and talking to the GM and assistant GM they started to give me hints.
“There is always some worry and excitement waiting to see what is going to happen.”
Not long after being named the AFL Top Prospects team, Prince got the call he had been waiting for from the Brewers.
Prince credits two big changes that finally helped him break into the Brewers' 40-man roster; his first healthy season and his older brother's Ran (LSU, McNeese St.) and Dooley Prince (McNeese St., Texas), both former college baseball standouts. Prince was hampered by a separated collar bone in his second year in the minor leagues followed by a groin injury in his third year.
“This was the first season that I had in the past three years where I was healthy,” Prince said. “After the season, I was still doing some things wrong and in the middle of the season you really can't change things.
Page 2 of 2 - “When I got back home my oldest bother Ran and middle brother Dooley helped me to work on my swing. We took a lot of video. Being healthy and making those adjustments was why I was able to adjust.”
Prince has one ace in the hole that might give me an edge when the Brewers start making cuts to get to the 25-man opening day roster; he has played in six different positions over the last year.
“There are not a lot of guys that can play the outfield and infield,” Prince said. “I am still not where I want to be or believe where I need to be because I have not had a lot of experience.
“I have played the infield all my life. That is not a big adjustment but moving to the outfield was. I had never played outfield in my life before. Going to the fall league playing left and right was hard at first. I feel like I am making my way.”
During spring training, Prince will have not time to rest as he will play six days out of the week but he still looks forward to meeting some of the Brewers’ more established players.
“Just playing along side of those guys like Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks,” Prince said. “Being out there and in that atmosphere and picking there heads to see what makes them so successful at the level they are at.”