In IBC episode 58, Justin “Boomer” Prinstein walked us through the beginning of his international professional baseball story which was a wild one with lots of ups and downs with stops in Belgium and Israel. This was all in the span of one season as well. He returned home for only a month before committing to the Southern Districts Hawks of the South Australian Baseball League for second half of the 2007-2008 winterball season. He arrived at the beginning of December, well into their season, just in time to qualify for the playoffs. However he had to play one miserable inning after being on a journey for 45 hours just to make this qualifying game.
The story continues now on episode 59….. feel free to read and/or listen to part 2 of his story. Part 2 is a long one at 55 minutes. The read is the shorter version for those of you who do not have time to listen now!
Luckily for Boomer, he had the next month off as the league went on break for Christmas. This gave him time to adjust to the time zone and settle into Adelaide with his new family, the Crabbs, home to his Aussie teammate and roommate Adam from the Israel Baseball League.
Boomer took full advantage of the month off and did a lot of travelling in South Australia, enjoyed the wine that the province is famous for and managed to meet an Australian model by simply using his Detroit accent. “You don’t need to be a good looking guy or even a professional baseball player, if you just have an accent in Australia as an American, it seems to do wonders for you. I was definitely batting out of my league there, ” said Boomer of his good fortune, something that was rare in his overseas adventures up to this point in his story.
When the season started up again he was thrown right into the mix of things and was actually used as much as an offensive weapon for the A grade team and as a pitcher for the B grade team. This was fine by Boomer since he was using winterball in Australia as more of an opportunity to get ready for the summer season in Europe since he was not getting paid to play. He still managed to do his share in helping the B grade team win the championship and the A grade team make it to the semi-finals.
Next up was his second crack at Europe and this time it was with the Tex Town Tigers of the Dutch First Class, which is the second division in the Netherlands behind the Head Class (Hoofdklasse). In Boomer’s mind this was an opportunity to gain some exposure in the Netherlands in hopes of achieving his goal of eventually playing in the Head Class.
Unfortunately he was met again with more headaches as their was a mix up with the contract which originally quoted his salary in Euro’s but when he signed it he didn’t notice it had been changed to U.S. dollars, which at the time made a big difference. On the plus side, the club was made up of a good group of guys and he was welcomed with open arms.
Boomer arrived in the Netherlands that 2008 summer in the best shape of his life after spending a season in Australia preparing. He went on to have the “best season of his life” for the Tigers and established his reputation as a dominant pitcher in the league. As Boomer put it, it was the first time in his life he got to be “the guy”. The coaches supported and believed in him and gave him the confidence in himself to lead the team.
Tex Town was also the start of his overseas coaching career, something that would continue to develop in the years to come.
Despite his success, Boomer was starting to burn out and decided that at the end of the season he would take the winter off to rest his arm after a year and a half of straight baseball. He applied to law school and received a scholarship to one in Detroit. Since his Tex Town season would run into the start of the semester, he arranged with the school to show up late and leave early the next spring for another season of baseball abroad.
Fast forward to the summer of 2009 coming off his best season personally and a winter of rest, Boomer was amped to get back on the field. He had some opportunities in the Can Am league and Frontier league and was offered a contract as a relief pitcher. Boomer thought it through and came to the conclusion that there was a good chance that after a bad outing or two he would be released and without a job.
He turned his sights back to Europe and contacted the top club in the Dutch First league who was looking to promote to the Head Class. Boomer had pitched a complete game against them the previous year and left a good impression so they offered him a good contract. He decided that this was his best route into the Head Class since those clubs only consider pitchers with AA+ experience. Also his new team, the Almere Magpies, used to play in the Head Class, had a beautiful stadium and had many former affiliated guys for him to play alongside.
“I was happy to be on one of the best teams I ever had a chance to play for,” reflected Boomer of making his way onto Almere.
At this point, his second year in Holland, he started to learn the Dutch language a little, adapted to the culture more, and developed long term friendships. He also enjoyed playing against his old team who fully supported his transfer. The only downside is that he didn’t get to hit and it was his first year with Sam Bat as a sponsor.
The breaks kept on coming as Boomer was given the chance to scout for the Houston Astros which was set up through a recommendation from his old friend Crabby to the Astros Director of Scouting in Europe, Mauro Mazzotti, who was seeking to fill an open position in the Netherlands. He soon found himself not only on a top notch team, but also scouting players in the Netherlands and cutting his teeth in what would turn out to be a long-term career.
I was happy to be on one of the best teams I ever had a chance to play for.
The Magpies steamrolled through the league which led up to the much anticipated promotion series. However they were met with a roadblock as the Dutch Baseball governing body (KNBSB) said they will not allow them to play in the promotion series because they didn’t think they would have the finances to sustain a club in the Head Class. Almere then took the KNBSB to court to play the series and won their appeal with the stipulation that they play the series in 5 straight days. This was a major disadvantage to Almere as a club that only plays two games a week in the First class and therefore only has two starters compared to the Head class teams who have three. All this just added to the drama and of baseball in the Netherlands has their eyes on the series to see how it played out.
Up 1-0, Boomer had the ball in game 2 and was up against an Aussie stud import. He came out in the 7th with the lead but the bullpen ended up coughing up the lead and they eventually lost the game.
Game 3 was a rainout so was played on the fourth day and Boomer came back on one day rest for the start. It was not a big surprise that he did not make it out of the second inning and the team went on to lose their second straight game.
The Magpies tied it up at 2-2 with a win in game 4 which led to game 5 in front of 2500+ fans. The third string pitcher who barely had any starts all year started game 5 and came out in the 3rd after giving up 4 runs. Boomer came in in relief with something to prove and went the final 6 innings in the come back win in front of 2500 fans, including a bunch of soccer hooligans that were setting off fireworks and flares. Boomer finally achieved his goal of making it to the Head Class for the next season.
It was probably the greatest baseball experience I ever had and something that I don’t think I would have ever experienced in the states if I had stuck around and played there for my one year of independent ball
“It was probably the greatest baseball experience I ever had and something that I don’t think I would have ever experienced in the states if I had stuck around and played there for my one year of independent ball,” said Boomer of the miracle moment when he and his teammates realized their dream of promotion.
Boomer decided another season in Australia would be the best medicine to prepare for his first season in the Head Class with the Magpies. He signed a contract to play in Perth, Australia for the West Stirling Indians. He first stopped back home for a week then was off to Australia, but this time to an unfamiliar club in an unfamiliar league. He was able to convince his school in Detroit to allow him to take classes in Australia to earn the credit. He kept it pretty light with just a few classes to keep his eligibility going.
Things went from a high in Almere to a low in Perth pretty fast. He arrived in Australia to an organization that was in a managerial transition period which was just bad timing on his part. They had promised a job but the club was unsuccessful at finding him one so he soon found himself broke and with no car to get himself around to look for a job. He also didn’t know anybody like his last experience in Australia and therefore was on his own to fend for himself.
Luck struck again because of his accent, however this time his reward was not an Australian model but a job coaching women’s softball. This kept him afloat while in Australia and the lower obligation pressure he now felt towards the club was a bit of a blessing in disguise because it provided him the opportunity to use the season to get into shape for the Head Class and put himself on a pitch limit. He also used his time in Australia to exercise his new scouting knowledge by signing a guy from the Perth Heat to come play for Almere with him.
The time had finally arrived, it was the 2010 season and his third trip back to Europe since 2007. However this time it was to play in the Dutch Head Class, something he set out to do three years earlier. In a pre-season game, Boomer found himself playing in Rotterdam vs. Neptunus in their huge stadium and pitching against a batting order full of former pro baseball players. The first batter he faced was former MLB player Eugene Kingsdale and Boomer struck him out. Things were looking good early on.
“It was one of those moments when you get chills,” said Boomer of that moment.
As you can imagine, a club which recently promoted will go through it’s struggles in a league full of bigger clubs with bigger budgets. Almere lost four of their top players to bigger clubs and on top of that, the club was struggling to pay their imports on time. The KNBSB was right, they were not able to financially sustain a club in the Head Class and the club slowly started to fall apart.
It was one of those moments when you get chills.
Eventually his Aussie teammate that he signed only a few months earlier left because of the club’s inability to pay him. The situation was quickly getting stressful and things got worse at the mid-season break when the club informed him that they may not be able to pay him for the rest of the season and that there would be a change in his living arrangement.
Boomer reached out about his frustrations to his former teammate in Israel Ty EriksEn who was at the time playing in the German Bundesliga. Ty mentioned to Boomer that the Hamburg Stealers were looking for a pitcher as a hired gun to finish out the season and help them get into the playoffs.
Despite Boomer finally making it to the Head Class, he asked for the trade to the Stealers which Almere awarded him. He joined the team in Hamburg just in time to help them secure a playoff spot by pitching two complete games while allowing only one earned run.
Boomer headed back to law school for the 2010-2011 winter but not before establishing contact with another baseball organization in one of the most unlikely countries…….
Stay tuned for part 3 coming out soon!