CARY – Quinn Priester’s pitching lessons while growing up often took place in front of his computer rather than at an indoor baseball facility.
His tutelage frequently came from various major league pitchers, such as Walker Buehler, Kyle Hendricks or Jake Arrieta, rather than a personal pitching coach.
“It’s kind of being a visual learner and wanting to get better at all that stuff,” Priester said. “I find it fascinating to watch what other guys do, how they use their bodies differently to create movement and velocity. If I can take one thing from them and learn from it, I can get better myself and help the team.”
Priester taught himself well. His outstanding high school career ended Saturday, but his professional career began, more or less, Monday night. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Priester with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Priester’s adviser, Sam Samardzija of Wasserman Media Group, will negotiate a deal for Priester with the Pirates. Priester soon will receive a physical examination from the club. Once a deal is signed, the 2019 Cary-Grove graduate will head to Pirate City, Pittsburgh’s spring training facility in Bradenton, Florida, for rookie ball.
“Then, it’s just games every day, just playing baseball,” Priester said. “It’s going to be awesome.”
Priester (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) finished the high school season at 8-2 with a 1.00 ERA, 601/3 innings pitched and 91 strikeouts with 14 walks. But it was last summer that really caught the eyes of major league scouts.
At various national showcases, Priester started to realize the true level to which his pitching talent projected. He was committed to TCU, an NCAA baseball powerhouse, and was excited about joining the Horned Frogs.
“I thought college baseball was really cool, and that was awesome,” Priester said. “I never really thought much more of it. Then, we had scouts and agents texting us, and it was like, ‘Hold up, this is a whole new ballgame.’ We realized from that point this might be something I could achieve.”
There were a couple of pivotal moments leading up to last summer.
Andy Priester recalled a game in his son’s sophomore season when he faced McHenry’s Bobby Miller, who had signed with Louisville but was being heavily scouted by the major leagues.
White Sox scout J.J. Lally attended that game to see Miller and saw Priester, as well. Priester was invited to play on the White Sox Area Code team that summer.
“We didn’t know about any of these things,” said Chris Priester, Quinn’s mother. “We didn’t know what Area Code meant. We didn’t know what Perfect Game meant.”
Basically, it opened more doors for Priester on a national level.
Another moment came during a game of catch last summer with Priester and C-G sophomore Ryan Weaver.
“I never had a good two-seam fastball,” Priester said. “It was just bad and flat. Weaver was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you move your thumb up?’ And I was like, ‘Why would I do that? I’ve never tried or heard of that.’ I tried it and started getting tons of sink on my two-seam. I’m like, ‘All right, that plays.’ ”
Priester unveiled his new pitch at a Perfect Game National tournament in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it was a huge success.
“It was diving,” Andy Priester said. “That was the outing where the scouts looked at him and went, ‘Holy cow!’ ”
In addition to be an adept visual learner, Priester knows to keep an open mind.
“Now [the two-seam] is one of my best pitches,” Priester said. “You always have to be willing to try new things. If you don’t try it, you don’t know if it’s going to work.”
Priester sat at his father’s house Monday in Crystal Lake with family members and his C-G coaches and teammates, waiting for the call from Samardzija, the brother of San Francisco pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Sam Samardzija called Priester about 15 minutes before the Pirates announced their selection. Priester told Andy, Chris and his sister Madison, but let it be a surprise for the rest.
They watched as other high school players he competed against last summer were taken. Bobby Witt Jr., a shortstop from Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas, went No. 2 to Kansas City, and C.J. Abrams, a shortstop from Blessed Trinity in Roswell, Georgia, went No. 6 to San Diego.
“What was fun last night was seeing the players he pitched against get drafted,” Chris Priester said. “That was cool.”
Naturally, Priester remembers the at-bats when he faced those two players last summer.
“I got Bobby out once at the [Perfect Game] National,” he said. “He popped out to right. Then I walked him. C.J. got a double and single off me at the Tournament of Stars. I was feeling good because I just came off a 1-2-3 inning with two punchouts. I was super-amped up, and I get C.J. 0-2 and hung a changeup, and the wheels fell off.”