Junior catcher Caleb Russell catches tries to frame the pitch inside the strike zone in the game against Dinwiddie. Russell has stepped in to fill the shoes left by Justin Starke. Photo by Katherine Thacker.

With signing to play baseball at Virginia Military Institute, senior Justin Starke’s senior season was supposed to be a way to help him improve his skill level and prepare for the college season. During the off season, Starke suffered an injury to his labrum in his throwing shoulder.

 With signing to play baseball at Virginia Military Institute, senior Justin Starke’s senior season was supposed to be a way to help him improve his skill level and prepare for the college season. During the off-season, Starke suffered an injury to his labrum in his throwing shoulder.

“I think it was from overuse and over time just wear and tear, and it eventually gave out,” Starke said.

This means Starke is limited to what he can do on the field. Some games, Starke is the designated hitter and others, he is the team’s mental leader.

“When I was playing, I usually led with how I played and my demeanor,” Starke said. “But now, I have to be able to help out mentally.”

With Starke not being able to play catcher, junior Caleb Russell has stepped up to the plate to take on the responsibility. Russell has been working with catching coach Roberts and Starke to help improve his game. Hanging out with Starke outside of practice has helped Russell build a stronger relationship with Starke. 

“It [our friendship] helped me a lot because he took me under his wing and helped me with everything I do in baseball,” Russell said.

Last season, during the state title game, the Royals beat the Potomac Panthers 8-0. Starke was the catcher during the game. Russell was a part of that win. He hopes to help his team win another state title. 

“They are very big shoes to fill,” Russell said. “Starke did very well last year, but I’m working as hard as I can and I’m going to do my best.”

Winning the state title is something the whole team will never forget. For Starke the win wasn’t just for him, but for his whole team. 

“My first thought after winning states was just to go and celebrate with my boys,” Starke said. “It never really set in until the morning after and I was ready to win another one.”

Senior Buck Forbes is currently one of the pitchers for the team. With Russell as the catcher, Forbes has not changed the way he plays the game on the mound.

“I’m relying on what I can do and just pitching to Caleb,” Forbes said. 

Starke may not always be on the game field, but he is active in the practice field. 

“I’ve still been able to go to practice,” Starke said. “While I’m there, I field balls at game pace during batting practice to keep my judgement and reflexes up to par.”

Throughout the season, Russell has been developing his skills by his work and his work ethic. 

“He’s having a great season for us and I can’t be more excited for him,” Starke said. 

As the season hits the home stretch, the emotions can be bittersweet. While players change with each new season, there is one thing that never changes, the sense of family. 

“The best part about playing with Prince George has been the tightness and brotherhood of the team every year,” Starke said. “My freshman year, the upperclassmen showed me how much better playing the game is when we treat each other like family.”

“I think it was from overuse and overtime just wear and tear, and it eventually gave out,” Starke said.

This means Starke is limited to what he can do on the field. Some games, Starke is the designated hitter and others, he is the team’s mental leader.

“When I was playing, I usually led with how I played and my demeanor,” Starke said. “But now, I have to be able to help out mentally.”

With Starke not being able to play catcher, junior Caleb Russell has stepped up to the plate to take on the responsibility. Russell has been working with catching coach Roberts and Starke to help improve his game. Hanging out with Starke outside of practice has helped Russell build a stronger relationship with Starke. 

“It [our friendship] helped me a lot because he took me under his wing and helped me with everything I do in baseball,” Russell said.

Last season, during the state title game, the Royals beat the Potomac Panthers eight to zero. Starke was the catcher during the game. Russell was a part of that win. He hopes to help his team win another state title. 

“It’s very big shoes to fill,” Russell said. “Starke did very well last year,  but I’m working as hard as I can and I’m going to do my best.”

Winning the state title is something the whole team will never forget. For Starke the win wasn’t just for him, but for his whole team. 

“My first thought after winning states was just to go and celebrate with my boys,” Starke said. “It never really set in until the morning after and I was ready to win another one.”

Senior Buck Forbes is  currently the pitcher for the team. With Russell as the cather, Forbes has not changed the way he plays the game at the mound.

“I’m relying on what I can do and just pitching to Caleb,” Forbes said. 

Starke may not always be on the game field, but he is active in the practice field. 

“I’ve still been able to go to practice,” Starke said. “While I’m there, I field balls at game pace during batting practice to keep my judgement and reflexes up to par.”

Throughout the season, Russell has been developing his skills by his work and his work ethic. 

“He’s having a great season for us and I can’t be more excited for him,” Starke said. 

As the season hits the home stretch, the emotions can be bittersweet. While players change with each new season, there is one thing that never changes, the sense of family. 

“The best part about playing with Prince George has been the tightness and brotherhood of the team every year,” Starke said. “My freshman year, the upperclassmen showed me how much better playing the game is when we treat each other like family.”