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Prince Harry tours storm-damaged NJ shore

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — Britain’s Prince Harry toured two New Jersey shore communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy, shaking hands with emergency personnel and construction workers before spending Tuesday afternoon in New York City at events promoting tourism, entrepreneurism and philanthropy. He even got a chance to play a little baseball.

In Seaside Heights, where the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” was made, Harry and his tour guide, Gov. Chris Christie, also took part in a game of chance along the boardwalk, throwing plastic balls into holes for prizes, which they handed over to children.

The prince suggested to a girl partnered with him, Allie Cirigliano, 7, of Middletown, that she pick a blue penguin as a prize. But she didn’t want it. “Don’t listen to me,” he said with a laugh. She chose a Hello Kitty doll instead.

The prince came within sight of the surf-washed Jet Star Roller Coaster, which became a defining image of the October storm when it blew off an amusement pier into the Atlantic Ocean. A crane later began tearing the ride apart. Harry also greeted construction workers who have been working on rebuilding Seaside Heights’ boardwalk, now about two-thirds complete.

At a morning stop in Mantoloking, residents flew Union Jack flags. Christie showed the prince a spot where the sea had cut the town in half, taking out a bridge and houses. The channel has since been filled in. Every one of the wealthy town’s 521 homes was damaged or destroyed. Scores remain as piles of rubble.

“This used to be a house?” Harry asked at one barren spot.

One handwritten sign read: “Prince Harry please come back when we’re restored.”

The prince said he was impressed to see “everyone getting together and making things right.”

At both his New Jersey stops, girls and young women jostled for position to get a good look, take pictures and fantasize about marriage proposals.

“He is so cute. He came in with that white shirt and red hair, and he just exceeded all my expectations,” said Brianna Marchal, 19, of Manahawkin, during his second stop. “The crowd literally grew three inches when he came by because everyone was on their tip toes, trying to get a picture. We had four devices going at the same time, trying to get pictures of him.”

Her sister, Taylor, 21, said she has been following Harry for years.

“It’s the whole fairy tale thing,” she said. “He’s a real live prince, here in New Jersey. We both want to marry him.”

The prince paused for a group photo with 10 members of the Bowden family, which lost a summer house in the storm.

Camilla Bowden, 17, said she had visited London and studied royal history but came to see Harry for one reason: “Cause he’s my future husband.”

“We appreciate Harry showing care and support during such a difficult time for our family and community,” said her aunt, Becky Guenther.

Christie posted on his Twitter account that he greeted Harry in Sea Girt, where the prince arrived by helicopter, by handing him a “Royal Fleece” — a joking reference to the blue fleece jacket the governor wore everywhere in the weeks after Sandy.

The prince spent about a half hour each in the two shore towns.

As his motorcade passed the Lavalette Elementary School, dozens of schoolchildren stood on the sidewalk waving American and British flags.

From Seaside Heights, the prince headed to New York City, where he climbed aboard a red double-decker bus with British Prime Minister David Cameron as part of a campaign to promote England as a tourist destination.

Cameron, who spent the morning in Boston at a memorial to the marathon bombing victims, spoke to about 100 entrepreneurs at a Manhattan design studio, saying American and British companies would have to compete in the new world economy on the basis of “our brains, our brilliance, our inventiveness, our creativity.”

Later, the prince visited a baseball diamond in East Harlem, where a royal foundation is involved in a youth baseball program.

While dozens of kids cheered him on, the prince briefly took batting practice from New York Yankee Mark Teixeira, making contact with all three pitches he saw.

“He’s a great athlete. I just said keep your eye on the ball,” Teixeira said afterward.

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