When his baseball career ended, former South Carolina closer Matt Price (2009-2012) was searching for a profession where he could still feel like he was part of a team, similar to what he had in athletics. He found that in law enforcement and has been a police officer in his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina for the last four years.
“I wanted something that would be close to a team bond again,” said Price, who is part of the 2022 class to be inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame next week. “I wanted something like I had when I played baseball. Since I’ve been at the police department, I started feeling that again, so I love what I do now. The people that I work with are like my brothers.
“It’s fun. It’s also very stressful at times, but that’s what you sign up for. It’s great to help out the community, for sure.”
Price’s career was memorable. He was a dominant closer on the Gamecocks’ National Championship run from 2010-2012. He set the career school records for saves (43) and appearances (102), as well as the SEC career record for saves. He earned Freshman All-America and second-team All-SEC honors in 2010. He earned All-America and first-team All-SEC honors in 2011 and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament team after posting a 2-0 record with two saves in five CWS appearances, tossing nine scoreless innings. In 2012, he earned second-team All-SEC honors and was a team captain.
Price was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the seventh round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He spent three years in professional baseball before an elbow injury ended his career, and he had to hang up his glove and spikes. Making the transition to life after sports wasn’t easy at first.
“It was tough,” Price said. “I was depressed for about a year. I just couldn’t get on my feet in trying to find something to do because something I loved was taken away. That was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. I still love the game.”
Price returned to South Carolina to finish his degree and was a graduate assistant for a year before getting a job as a high school teacher and coach.
“I was teaching and coaching at Sumter High School for a while, and then when that didn’t really work out, I was looking for a new job,” Price said. “My dad was a cop on a base for the military at Shaw Air Force Base, so that sort of led me to it.”
Price attended the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy for twelve weeks of training.
“I had to learn all the state laws and lots of other legal stuff,” Price said. “You also have to do qualifying with a firearm and with driving at high rates of speed. We have to make sure we can do that effectively and learn what we call defensive driving. At the end of it, we went through a lot of scenarios of things we might see in the real world. Once I graduated and got back to the department, I had to do a 16-week program with a field training officer until I was able to go out on my own.”
“It’s stressful because you never know what you’re going to get on any day. ”
Price noted that he sometimes gets recognized while on the job, although folks aren’t asking for an autograph if he’s giving them a ticket.
“There are certain sides of town in Sumter where I get noticed more,” Price said. “I try not to bring that back into what I’m trying to accomplish now.”
While he enjoys his work, there are certainly challenges working in law enforcement.
“The toughest part is trying to make the decisions that need to be made in the time limit we have when answering a call,” Price said. “We have to make the best decision in a minute or two when arriving on scene or trying to figure out what happened. It’s stressful because you never know what you’re going to get on any day. It can be slow one day, but then the next day can be chaotic.
“When I first became a cop, I didn’t realize all the different kind of stuff that went down in Sumter. It’s a ride with a lot of ups and downs. The best part is being able to help people that actually want it. Helping someone that really wants to be helped really lifts me up. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
It was always great getting the call to the bullpen when he pitched, and Price said it was an emotional experience to get the call from his former coach and current South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner about his selection for the Hall of Fame.
“I was kind of speechless,” Price said. “Coach Tanner called me, and the first thing I did was call my wife (Abbye) to tell her. Once I told her, I started crying.”
Looking back, Price said some of his best memories at South Carolina happened off the baseball field.
“Just being with all the guys, especially with guys that are playing still, like Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Christian Walker,” Price said. “On the field, I’ll always remember being dog-piled on. Those are great memories, but the brotherhood we had as a whole team, that meant more to me than those moments on the field.”
Price admits he hasn’t been back to a South Carolina baseball game in several years, but he yearns to get back. When he’s not on the job, Price is busy raising a big family as he and his wife, Abbye, have three daughters in Nora, Amelia and Olive, as well as a newborn son, Levi. He looks forward to being back on campus for Hall of Fame weekend this month to share his moment with his family.
“Bringing my kids back to see what their father accomplished when he was here is pretty cool,” Price said. “They’re young, so they might not really know, but just bringing my family and people that helped me get there will be something I will really relish.”