Oct. 8, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, the master of the malapropism, was quoted during a night in his honor as saying, “I wanna thank everybody here for making this night necessary.”
Former Georgia Tech catcher and current baseball team assistant coach Bryan Prince can relate to Berra when he thinks about this Friday night, when he takes his place as one of Class of 2014 being inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame. He just expressed it a little differently.
“It’s crazy to even think that I’m going into a class or category with all of the amazing players that have ever come through Georgia Tech,” said the Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., native, who starred behind and at the plate from 1998 through 2001 and has been an assistant coach for the Jackets since 2006. “I never saw myself as one of those players. I’m very honored and very humbled and speechless. The thought never crossed my mind that I would go into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame.”
Prince will go in with James Butler and Luke Manget (Football), Michael Johnson (Track and Field), Alvin Jones (Basketball), and Lynnette Moster (Volleyball) Friday evening at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. The inductees will also be honored during Georgia Tech’s football game against Duke on Saturday, Oct. 11, at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Prince’s induction also will mark the fifth straight year that a player from his playing period will be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame — joining lefty pitcher Chuck Crowder (Class of 2010), third baseman Mark Teixeira (Class of ’11), lefty Cory Vance (Class of ’12) and second baseman/shortstop Richard Lewis (’13).
The thought of getting into the Hall crossing Prince’s mind wouldn’t have been that far-fetched. He was a big piece of two of Georgia Tech’s top two hitting teams in school history, the 2000 club, which batted .347 and the 2001 team which batted .342. Prince hit .387 with 77 RBIs as a junior and .349 with 63 RBIs as a senior. Both seasons he earned first-team All-ACC honors as well as being named a semifinalist for the prestigious Johnny Bench Award, awarded to the top catcher in Division I baseball.
Then, again, thinking about the Hall of Fame would have meant Prince’s thinking about personal numbers, something he never did. Instead, he chose to focus on a different set of numbers. Those read 170-78 and 57-38, Georgia Tech’s record and conference record in his years on The Flats playing for Coach Danny Hall, who will introduce him Friday night. The greater good always came first.
“I played for the name on the front of the jersey and for my teammates and tried to win baseball games,” Prince said.
The Jackets won plenty of games, including going 50-16 (18-6 in ACC play) and winning both the 2000 ACC regular-season and tournament championships as well as the NCAA Tournament Atlanta Regional. Prince still ranks among the all-time school leaders in RBIs (216, fifth), hits (278, seventh), at-bats (788, 12th) and doubles (403, 22nd).
He was drafted on the 10th round of the 2001 June draft by the Cincinnati Reds, and played for four seasons in their system. He also got to actually meet Johnny Bench. “I got to meet him a couple of times,” said Prince, who reached as far as high-A. “Being nominated for the Johnny Bench Award, and Johnny Bench being one of the greatest catchers of all time, being in the Reds’ organization, and just loving the game of baseball, that, in itself was just an amazing time in my life.”
In 2006, Hall brought Prince back home, making him a member of his staff as a volunteer assistant. Then, after Bryan spent a year as an assistant coach at the University of Indiana, brought him back again, putting him in charge of the team’s catchers and making him the team’s hitting coach. His impact was felt immediately as two years later, the Jackets finished second in the country blasting a school-record 122 home runs while also finishing second in the ACC with a .326 batting average. Prince is grateful to Hall.
“Without him, first of all believing in my ability and offering me a scholarship, but also working with me and allowing me playing time, none of this would have been possible,” Prince said.
He got emotional when recalling how he told Hall the news about his induction. Hall, who actually already knew, kept the secret — with great difficulty — until Prince was officially informed and could announce the news himself.
“I went into his office and we were talking about daily activities, maybe something about recruiting, maybe talking about who we have coming in or strategies with those guys,” Prince said. “[Hall] said, `’Princie,’ I’ve known for a long time. I wanted to share it with you every day but I had to wait until they told you. Congratulations. I’m really proud of you.’
“To share that with a guy that I’ve played for and offered me a scholarship and now has enough trust in me to bring me back as an assistant coach, Coach Hall is very important to me,” he added. “He is a great mentor, he was a great coach and he’s an even better friend. Just to allow me to work in my alma mater, I’m super grateful, so I feel it’s very special for me to be able to share it with Coach Hall.”
There are plenty of players and former players that are happy for Prince getting recognized and are as grateful to him for how he helped them advance their careers, a list that includes Major League catchers Matt Wieters, a three-time American League All-Star, and current minor leaguers Cole Leonida and Zane Evans, a finalist for the 2013 Johnny Bench Award.
“All the credit goes to those guys,” said Prince. “All I did was kind of show them a direction or give them some guidance. All of them were super-hard workers and very talented guys and just fun to be around. They have more talent than I ever did. So to be able to work with players that are that skilled, it’s a lot of fun.”
Prince is expecting a large turnout, including good friend and former Yellow Jackets Baseball player Randy Carroll (Class of 1968, Hall of Fame Class of 1976), and his wife, Tracy, who he met at Georgia Tech.
It also should be an emotional night, a night that ranks up with the night in 2005, when he completed his degree from Georgia Tech, becoming the first person in his family to receive a college degree, something he still calls his most memorable college achievement.
“[The induction is] a very special thing for me and sometimes I get emotional about it,” Prince said. “I never thought in a million years that it would be me. I just want to have a great night and enjoy it with my family, Coach [Hall] and former players and former teammates.”
Just some of the people that made Friday night necessary.
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