Swinging for the fences: Law grad changes youngster's lives through baseball

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By Ricky Lindsay
University of Detroit Mercy

Justin Prinstein says he still finds it hard to believe the impact his International Stars Baseball Academy has had on underserved children over the last seven years.

The Detroit Mercy Law alumnus created the nonprofit organization in 2012 to introduce Detroit children to baseball.

But lessons extend far beyond the playing field: International Stars helps children by providing mentorship, extracurricular programming and a support system.

 “It’s one of those things where, sometimes you have to pinch yourself, because you don’t even realize it’s happening while you’re doing it,” Prinstein said.

 Prinstein  played in college and professionally, transitioned into coaching and climbed the scouting ranks with several Major League Baseball franchises. He’s now a major league scout for the Cincinnati Reds.

The idea of International Stars was brainstormed while playing and coaching overseas. Prinstein, the organization’s executive director, was hosting clinics in Hungary for kids who were unfamiliar with baseball and wanted to create a similar program upon returning to study at Detroit Mercy Law.

As  a law student, he  trained for his professional season at the Boll Family YMCA where he met Larry White, a maintenance worker at the facility and youth sports coach. The two teamed up to host free winter-long baseball clinics for children.

The turnout was great, Prinstein said, and the next step was creating a youth team of children who participated in the clinics.

In the summer of 2013, International Stars fielded its first team in the Detroit Police Academy League (PAL) and MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) league.

 “Baseball is just really not played in the inner city. And this became a passion of mine back in 2010-11,” Prinstein said.

“I became really hyper-focused on seeing if we can get more kids in Detroit to play baseball and become more familiar with it.”

During his seven-year professional playing career, with stops in Belgium, Israel, Australia and the Netherlands, Prinstein  coached on the side and worked for MLB’s Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles as a European scout.

But he felt there was something missing.

“I noticed very early on that I’m not going to be able to pitch all year round. I tried playing winter ball and I just felt like there was something missing from my year,” he said.

“If I’m playing ball all year, I wanted to have an opportunity to elevate my mind and work on a different part of my personal growth.”

Prinstein settled on studying law and Detroit Mercy Law accommodated his busy schedule.

He compared  balancing a professional baseball playing and scouting career and law school — to having two full-time jobs.

“I had a pretty interesting setup where I’d take my exams proctored overseas and come late. It was hard; there’s no way around it. I’m training at 6 a.m. in the morning, then going to class and coming back and training some more and doing law school work.”

Though Prinstein doesn’t practice law, he says his experience at Detroit Mercy has been helpful as he follows his passions.

“The tools I learned in law school definitely helped me in my career in baseball and in running a nonprofit. I do so much paperwork on the legal side of things,” Prinstein said.

“The way I think strategically, these are a lot of the skill sets I developed through my education at Detroit Mercy Law.”

Shortly after earning his law degree, Prinstein was hired by the Baltimore Orioles to be the supervisor of Europe, and was elevated to a scouting role with the Orioles at the end of his playing career.

He evaluated players across multiple levels to help the Orioles in free agency and trades. He also provided advance scouting as the organization prepared for upcoming opponents. This past winter, he  joined the Cincinnati Reds as an international crosschecker.

His heart remains with International Stars. The organization just completed its ninth year hosting winter baseball clinics. It has fielded multiple teams to compete in spring, summer and fall youth leagues since 2013, and Prinstein and his team help Detroit elementary schools implement baseball programming in physical education classes.

Prinstein hopes to one day develop a year-round complex in Detroit for International Stars. There’s also a global arm which helps international athletes pursue collegiate baseball opportunities.

Earlier this year, the team went digital, providing baseball lessons and support through social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Baseball activities resumed later into the summer.

Most of the long-term plan remains intact, Prinstein said. They’re still fundraising to build the complex, and plan on returning to programming when safe.

“ I think, even if we help just one kid and change one kid’s life, it’s worth it,” Prinstein said.

“And we’ve already changed so many. It makes us encouraged to keep going with it.”




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