Sports

FOOTBALL | South Kitsap signal-callers guided by a Prince

Quarterbacks coach Jared Prince became an assistant this summer at South Kitsap following four seasons as an outfielder in the Texas Rangers’ organization. After Prince was released in March, he elected to retire from baseball to pursue a career as a teacher. - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
Quarterbacks coach Jared Prince became an assistant this summer at South Kitsap following four seasons as an outfielder in the Texas Rangers’ organization. After Prince was released in March, he elected to retire from baseball to pursue a career as a teacher.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

New South Kitsap quarterbacks coach Jared Prince acknowledges he has not followed the Wolves in recent seasons.

After all, the former North Kitsap and Washington State University star was playing baseball in the Texas Rangers’ organization.

Because of that, Prince almost missed an opportunity to join the Wolves’ coaching staff after the Rangers released him in March. South coach Eric Canton contacted a sportswriter at The Kitsap Sun after the news of Prince’s release appeared in the newspaper. Prince then received a Facebook message from the sportswriter that Canton hoped to speak with him. But Prince thought D.J. Sigurdson, who resigned in April 2012 to become an assistant principal at South, still was the football coach.

“I didn’t even know (Canton) had the job,” Prince said. “I thought it was kind of a baseball thing.”

And that was a problem.

After four seasons of minor-league baseball, Prince wanted a break from that sport. But after some consideration, Prince decided to call Canton figuring that it would not be detrimental to “get my name out there.”

“We hit it off and stayed in contact all summer,” Prince said.

Canton agreed.

“He got back with me and at first it didn’t look like it was going to happen,” he said. “We’re very fortunate.”

That was not because Prince, 27, was analyzing his options in professional baseball. He spent last season at Double-A Frisco (Texas), where he hit .234 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of .665.

“It was time,” Prince said. “I felt where I was in a place in my life where they made their decision and I was comfortable with moving on.”

While Prince could have pursued further professional opportunities, he felt like other organizations would have viewed him as nothing more than organizational fodder. In four minor-league seasons, the outfielder hit .266 with an OPS of .747.

“That lifestyle is so tough and such a grind,” Prince said. “If I was just going to be an organizational guy, I felt like I had a lot more value somewhere doing something else and moving forward.”

It was a much different route than anticipated for the 2005 North graduate. As a freshman at WSU, he hit .401 and had a 6-2 record with a 4.53 ERA on the mound. He was viewed as a future top-10 pick, but that changed in 2007 when he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (pitching) arm. Prince never regained his effectiveness as a pitcher following the surgery.

“I looked at that as an opportunity for a comeback,” Prince said. “For me it was an opportunity to see how tough of a guy — how tough of an athlete — I was. It was a devastating blow to any sort of thrower. It pretty much is the worst injury you can ever get. It took me a few years.”

That occurred in 2009 when the Cougars finished with a 19-8 record in the Pac-10 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals. Prince hit .343 with an OPS of 1.001 that season.

When Prince was a senior in high school, WSU finished 1-23 in Pac-10 play.

“That’s one of the reasons why I went there,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the force that changed that program over there. Turning that program around was one of my more proud memories.”

But Prince fell to the 34th round to the Rangers in the amateur draft. The possibility remains that Prince’s professional prospects might have been stronger if he concentrated on football. But he notes that WSU had five scholarship quarterbacks when he arrived on campus. Prince also considered playing at Washington, but he would have entered the program at the same time as future top-10 NFL pick Jake Locker.

“I don’t work that way,” said Prince, when asked if he ever contemplated how his path could be different if he stuck with football. “I made the best decision with the information that was presented to me at the time. I’m confident in my decisions. I don’t regret anything. I’m very happy with the opportunities I was given and feel fortunate to have those opportunities.”

Even though he did not play football for the Cougars, Prince never was too far away. His roommate was Gig Harbor offensive lineman Kenny Alfred.

“I’ve always been around the game over there,” Prince said.

The biggest obstacle to get him back in the game was his schedule. Prince earned his bachelor’s degree from WSU, but he needed more classes in education in order to achieve his goal of becoming a teacher. He earned 20 credits last spring from Olympic College and now is pursuing a master’s degree in education at the University of Puget Sound.

In an effort to balance his commute between Tacoma and Port Orchard, Prince lives in Gig Harbor. That means the shuffle between classes and practices that often run into the evening is not simple.

“It’s been crazy,” Prince said. “I haven’t really slowed down.”

That daily feeling might be similar to the one he experienced Oct. 1, 2004, when Prince threw for 230 yards and four touchdowns against South in a 62-7 win at Joe Knowles Stadium. It was the Vikings’ first non-forfeit win against the Wolves since 1977.

But Prince said he has adapted quickly to the other side of the old rivalry.

“Ever since I’ve been here, the only change has been the different colors,” he said. “Everything else I’ve felt very comfortable with the coaching staff and in the building. The only thing that has been a little off is getting used to the color scheme. Other than that, I’ve felt completely at home.”

Particularly when he steps onto the gridiron.

“Football was always really dear to my heart,” Prince said. “I love that sport and everything that came with it. The preparation, game day, practice — I loved all of it. To be back here in a football environment is an absolute blast. I’m loving every part of it.”

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