Justin Boomer Prinstein fell in love with baseball ever since attending his first game at Old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Farmington Hills native chatted with SEEN’s Rachel Schostak about his professional baseball career and what it’s like scouting talent across the U.S.
By Rachel Schostak
I had the opportunity to interview one of the most interesting guys I know. Lucky me — he happens to be, my brother. Talk about inspiration, he has inspired me to always stay true to what I am most passionate about.
1. Tell us about your background and profession. I was born in Detroit, grew up in Southfield and attended North Farmington High School. I went on to play college baseball first at Albion and then transferred to George Washington University in Washington D.C. where I was a NCAA Division 1 scholarship player. After graduating, I played professionally for seven years overseas for teams in Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic. During the off-season, I finished my law degree at University of Detroit. While I was winding down my playing career I transitioned into coaching overseas and that led to opportunities with Major League Baseball teams as a scout. The Baltimore Orioles hired me to spearhead their European Scouting operations in 2013, and after a couple of years they brought me back to the States to work in Minor League and Major League Scouting. I just wrapped up my 6th season with the Orioles as an MLB scout.
2. How did you get started in the industry? Kind of by accident actually. In 2009 I was playing professionally for a team right outside of Amsterdam called Almere’90. My best friend, an Australian named Adam Crabb, was talking to a team in Italy about playing there, and in part of his discussions with their General Manager Mauro Mazzotti, who happened to be the Houston Astros European Scouting coordinator, Mauro asked Crabby if he knew anyone in The Netherlands that could help him scout that country part time. Crabby put forward my name, and I started a conversation with Mauro that led to my first job with a Major League Baseball team (while I was still playing, ironically). I didn’t even know that was a job possibility, nor was I thinking about that as a profession because I had studied political science in undergrad and was in the middle of attending law school at the time, and planned to work in the government after finishing my playing career.
After a couple of seasons with the Astros I looked to get more serious into the scouting/management side of things, but I have Mauro to thank for that first opportunity. Mauro and I ended up reuniting with the Orioles a couple of years later, and now we run a program for international kids where we help them get opportunities to play college baseball in the U.S. with an annual showcase, which is part of the International Stars Baseball organization I started in 2013.
3. How has baseball impacted your life? It has been my life. Every person I met. Every woman I dated. Every friendship I have formed. Every place I’ve been. Everything I do has all come about because of my love and passion for playing and watching the game as young as I can remember. My father and grandfather both played, and I guess it was only natural that I would too. Baseball provided me an opportunity to advance my education, see the world and have so many opportunities outside of the sport, and now I am trying to provide the same for the next generation.
4. Are there any moments throughout your career that really stand out? My first game as a pro in Belgium, I threw a no-hitter. This was before the age of Instagram, Facebook and live-streams. Just some grainy photos exist. But I’ll never forget the feeling of walking onto the field for the first time and realizing that I was being paid for playing the game I love.
In 2009, pitching for Almere we won the Dutch First Division championship and then in the promotion series to enter back into the premier league I pitched three times in five days culminating with six innings of one-run ball coming out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 5 with thousands of on-lookers. The adrenaline rush of pitching in front of so many fans, rushing the field to pile up and scream and pour bottles of beer and Champagne over each other’s heads is what you play for. It was magical.
My first game in the premier league pitching against defending champion Rotterdam Neptunus and striking out a former Major Leaguer, the first batter I faced really stands out. And then my final game as a professional, pitching in the Hungarian Cup Championship for the Janossomorja Rascals. I threw all nine innings, knowing it would be my very last time playing, my arm basically falling off but leaving everything I had on the field physically while mentally being stronger than ever. Getting to leave the game on my own terms.
5. Who inspires you in your industry? The kids that play for the love of the game. The scouts, coaches and personnel who sacrifice good pay and their time to teach the game and spread the gospel to keep it going for the right reasons. The sages like my mentors Ron Schueler, Lee Thomas, Gregg Ritchie and my dad who protect the history and share their wisdom and insight with a younger generation.
6. What is your favorite thing about your job? To work outside, watching something that I’ve been doing my whole life, that has no clock or time limit that allows you to lose yourself within the mysticism and sacredness of the sport, and continually being challenged and adaptive as the game ebbs and flows through time, and seeing something new that I haven’t seen before on a daily basis.
7. You have traveled all over the country and world as a player and scout. What are your top three favorite places you have been to? Budapest, Hungary – the coolest and most unique cultural city I’ve been to. Adelaide, Australia – beautiful beaches and topography, with a city nestled in between wine country and the sea, with fantastic people. Sedona, Arizona – the beautiful, mystical, red earth rising up from the ground centers me and is the type of nature that makes me feel alive.
8. Now, top three ballparks and why?
1.Old Tiger Stadium: My first game, my earliest memories of baseball as a kid going with my grandpa and dad, watching Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turn 2 and being closer to the action than in any other field I’ve been to and feeling the history of the game and tradition all around.
2. Asheville (North Carolina): A throwback ballpark with odd dimensions and contours in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it transports me back in time and reminds me of my love for baseball in the lower-minors in a fantastic town.
3. Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida: Home to spring training for the Marlins and Cardinals. It’s an intimate, cozy Florida ballpark with not a bad seat, in a small coastal Florida town. It’s quaint and it’s spring training done right. It’s my favorite place to scout because I stay right across the street and walk to the ballpark and a feeling of comfort engulfs me. Good restaurants and cafes a few seconds away, it reminds me of being in Europe.
Now on to some hobbies…
9. Do you think kids still collect baseball cards? About how many do you have in your collection? Very interesting question that I haven’t thought about much. When I was growing up, baseball cards really did pre-date the internet and video games and satellite and cable TV, so the connection to baseball players that you didn’t ever see was through the baseball cards. As a kid growing up, I could read the stats, memorize their history and then if you ever got a chance to see them play, it was the coolest thing ever. Nowadays, with the availability of information, with the way we are able to view sports and have access to the players’ innermost thoughts (Twitter), the reason why kids would collect cards in the first place doesn’t really exist. Essentially, following them on social media is a new version of collecting cards. My collection still exists somewhere in my parent’s house, and I would say there are thousands and thousands of cards spanning about a decade (mid-1980s to mid-1990s) which coincidentally is about the time the internet came into our lives.
10. When not working, which is rare, what’s your favorite thing to do? Mostly I like to see/hear live music or DJ sets. I also like to play music myself, for friends, family, occasionally doing shows around the world as I travel. I spin vinyl and do digital mixing as a DJ. Hands down my favorite hobby.
11. Music or a movies? Music. See above.
12. Best baseball movie? “Bull Durham.” Which is also just the best movie, ever, period.
Now on to your style…
13. Three words to describe your style? Hats. Socks. Colors.
14. I know you have a huge sock collection. What’s you’re current favorite pair? A very important person in my life gifted me a pair from the Los Angeles Museum of Art that are sunset socks, which happens to be my favorite thing to photograph.
15. You’re never fully dressed without? A smile.
You’re Local Love List…
16. When back in Detroit what’s your favorite local restaurant for lunch or dinner? Olga’s for lunch. You simply can’t get it anywhere else in the world, and it’s truly one of a kind. I can’t just pick one for dinner – it’s usually been Ottava Via in Corktown, but recently I’ve been getting into Otus Supply in Ferndale. For late night eats, Green Dot Stables, hands down.
17. Your go-to coffee spot? How do you take your coffee? Astro Coffee in Corktown. And due to my time living in Europe, I just go straight espresso, which makes me a bit of a snob according to my father, but I’m OK with that.
18. Best spot for music/entertainment? Motor City Wine on Michigan Avenue. I’ve been going there since they first opened and between live jazz and incredible DJ sets, they have the best music consistently on a daily basis (in addition to hand-selected wine from around the world). Slow Jams Detroit which is hosted at Woodbridge Pub and Marble Bar for the past 10 years is my favorite weekly event with the top Detroit DJ’s Erno and Eastside Jon spinning classic vinyl all night with a rotation of DJ’s coming in from around the world.
19. In addition to your scouting gig, you started a youth program for city kids that enables them to play baseball during season and off season. Why is this cause important to you, and how have you seen the children benefit from the program? When I was playing professionally overseas and spending the off-season living in downtown Detroit I was looking for a place to do my training and realized not only were there no real facilities for this to happen for myself, but kids in the city really didn’t have an opportunity to excel in baseball due to the lack of programs and facilities where they could play.
So in 2012, I started a free baseball clinic for kids at the Boll Family YMCA with Larry White who was a local coach and worked at the Y. Our program, due to the great efforts of Larry, his sons Layton and Landon, countless volunteers including my father, and the YMCA, has become the go-to-spot for kids in the city looking to learn and play baseball, for free, all year round. We are currently looking to raise money to help move our academy from the basketball courts at the Boll YMCA (which has been a great host over the past six years) to our own standalone baseball/softball complex that would have three to four fields for all different levels and an indoor facility where kids can come daily to train at baseball in a safe environment while also getting homework help, tutoring, mentoring, social services and career development opportunities with college placement and career counseling.
This cause has been important to me because I have seen what baseball has been able to do for me in my own life — it’s given me direction and purpose, an opportunity to further my education, travel the world and have a successful career — and so I want to help facilitate those same opportunities for those who don’t have the same access or support system I did. If people want to learn more about our program, get involved or donate to our cause they can go to isbaseball.com for more info.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by? Luke 6:31 – the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would want done unto you.”