HARLEM — As Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira stood on the mound Tuesday afternoon, Prince Harry, the youngest son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, stood at home plate of Harlem RBI's baseball field in East Harlem and got into a batter's stance.
One swing later, Prince Harry had lofted the ball to right field, drawing cheers from the children and a new nickname from Harlem RBI Executive Director Rich Berlin.
"He will forever now be known as Prince Harry of Harlem," said Berlin.
Prince Harry's visit to Harlem RBI — an East Harlem nonprofit youth development agency that runs activities like baseball clinics and educational programs to help young people— was part of the announcement of a new partnership with The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to offer coaching opportunities for local youth.
American Friends of The Royal Foundation will also help fund the multi-year partnership for youth , starting at age 13 and continuing through college.
The new partnership will allow Harlem RBI to increase the number of young people able to participate in the program while also increasing the quality of the program.
"Coaching is at the core of Harlem RBI's mission," said Berlin. "At Harlem RBI, youth grow not only as baseball and softball players, but also as leaders on and off the field."
With Teixeira serving as a tour guide, and explaining the rules of the game along the way, Prince Harry spent 40 minutes with the kids of Harlem RBI, playing catch and taking batting practice.
When Teixeira, a large Harlem RBI donor and fundraiser, placed a ball on the tee for Prince Harry to swing at he asked: "What happens if I miss?" and then ceded to the professional, telling Teixeira: "You go first."
Prince Harry laughed and joked with kids for the entire visit in East Harlem. This trip, with carefully laid out photo opportunities, was quite different than Prince Harry's last trip to the U.S. when nude pictures of him partying in Las Vegas surfaced.
Prince Harry arrived in the U.S. on May 9. He visited Colorado to boost charities that support veterans and earlier Tuesday also toured areas in Ocean County, New Jersey damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The visit, which also included a trip to Capitol Hill, Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
Jolita Brettler, 9 a fourth grade student at Harlem RBI's DREAM Charter School, said the Prince was engaging.
"At first, I was afraid I would faint," said Brettler. After rolling a ball back and forth with the Prince and catching his hitting skills, Brettler was still impressed.
"He's a prince, Who thinks a prince plays baseball?" she said.
The Royal Foundation launched a a sports coaching and youth initiative just before the London Olympics in 2012. The project seeks to promote the next generation of coaches and to use coaching and mentoring to motivate and inspire young people. It is the foundation's first international project based on coaching.
At Harlem RBI, young people in East Harlem and the South Bronx start out coaching fitness at age 13. As they get older and more experienced, they take on more responsibilities and become assistant baseball coaches and graduating to full-time coaching fellows. Once they reach college, they can work as learning coaches on the field and in the classroom.
"I started at this organization, like many other staff people, as a coach," said Berlin.
Prince Harry returns to the U.K. Wed., May 15 after he plays polo in Greenwich, Conn. But if he ever comes back to Harlem, Brettler said she would be waiting.
"This prince rocks. Literally rocks," said Brettler.