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USC-L signee Prince takes on a new role for Spartans

Posted: April 22, 2014 1:43 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It was meant to be nothing more than an innocent off-season bullpen session. But for Kenneth Prince it turned out to be a season-ender.
After throwing a few pitches last fall, the Camden Military Academy senior felt that something was not right in his right arm. A trip to the doctor came back with a report which the Sandy Run native did not want to hear as he learned that his arm had endured a hat trick which no athlete, never mind a pitcher, wants to get.
“I tore my bicep, my rotator cuff and my labrum … I tore them all,” Price said while still managing a smile. “It was the whole flush.”
The surgery to repair Prince’s throwing arm was not enough to scare away college coaches as he recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at USC-Lancaster beginning next season.
Unable to play for the Spartans this year, Prince became a valuable member of the program in a role which might best be described as being a student assistant coach.
“Not having him able to play is, obviously, not a good thing,” said CMA head coach and Camden native Griff Beckham. “At the same time, having him being around and helping to teach our young guys about the game has been a very big help for us. A lot of our younger guys have gotten close to him and he helps by giving them the ins and outs of playing the game of baseball.”
In his second year at CMA, Prince previously attended and played baseball at Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia. With a fastball which can tough the 90s, the chance to let Prince’s arm heal and get a quality pitcher in return was too good of an opportunity for Lancers’ head coach Steve Williams to pass up. Prince said he is thankful for getting this chance to continue his academic and baseball pursuits.
“I had surgery on my arm and it was the best choice for me,” Prince said of the reasons for his collegiate decision. “Coach Williams is going to make me better than I am now.
“They’re just good people … country people (at USC-L). Everybody there stays out of trouble and there are no distractions. I want to get my degree and then, move on to a big D-I school.”
Since his surgery in February, Prince has spent hours in physical therapy and doing plenty of work with resistance bands to get his arm back to its original strength, if not better, than it was pre-injury.
Beckham, a former pitcher at Camden High and then at The Citadel, has a good idea of what Prince has been going through with the injury and what will come next once he gets to Lancaster. He said the time away from baseball and learning how to throw again could be beneficial for the 6-foot-1 Prince.
“He’s going to have to put a lot of work in because this is not an injury which you bounce right back from,” Beckham said. “There are a lot of things which he is going to have to overcome mentally. Velocity is one of the things which comes slowly, but the more he stays in the weight room and keeps his head on the right path, the better he will be.
“Coach Williams will do a good job with him and will bring him around slowly and in the time frame he needs to be brought back. He won’t rush him back out there.”
Having played baseball since the age of six, Prince said it has been hard to just sit on the sidelines and watch his Spartan teammates, knowing that had he been healthy, he could have been a big help on the mound and at third base. He has had to learn patience this year just as he will have to learn a new way of pitching and, a new pitch or two in order to get college batters out.
One change Prince plans on making is dropping his arm angle to cause less stress to his arm.
  “It was my biggest fear before and, I’m still scared about it,” he said about reinjuring his pitching arm. “I want to jump back into it pretty quick, get better and go on.
“I have the velocity … it’s there. I can hit the 90s, but I need a changeup or else, they’ll hit me hard … at least that’s what I’ve been told.”
Beckham said Prince has a fastball which translates to the next level, but will need more than just one pitch to keep batters guessing.
“He’s going to have to develop some off-speed pitches,” Beckham said of the changes which Prince must make once he gets to USC-Lancaster and, beyond.
“The game’s a lot faster in college. You make mistakes in college and those balls never come back into the park. He has to learn to stay low in the zone and just be a battler and compete because you’re not going to strike everybody out. You’re not going to be a 10-strikeout guy like you can be in high school if you have an upper velocity fastball. He’s going to have to learn how to pitch instead of just throwing the ball across the plate.”
Just getting the chance to pitch, again, is something which Prince wanted for himself and which Beckham wanted for a valuable member of the program. They both got their wish when USC-Lancaster came through with an offer.
“I think it will be great for him,” Beckham said of Prince’s college choice. “Kenneth’s strength is his knowledge of the game. He knows it very well and has been playing baseball since he was six years old. He’s been around the game and he loves to compete. He has a big upside. Hopefully, he’ll get a lot better from a standpoint of building strength.
“I think it’s beneficial that he does not have to rush back from his injury to try and prove himself. This is a program which is on the upswing. I think Coach Williams will do a great job in getting him where he needs to be.”

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