The view from Pittsburgh: 5 takeaways from meeting Quinn Priester

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is being republished here with the Post-Gazette's permission.

The Pittsburgh Pirates introduced their first-round pick on Tuesday at PNC Park.

Here are five takeaways from that session, with Priester, a 2019 Cary-Grove graduate, seated next to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

1. Priester did his homework. 

In the days leading up to the MLB draft, Priester said he talked with his parents and sister about what made the most sense for them.

If Team X took Quinn with this pick, would he go to college or sign? What about Team Y a little later? MLB’s slotting system — where players have a decent idea of what their signing bonus may be — helped.

Then there was also fit, Priester said. If he felt comfortable, and the round and signing bonus made sense, Priester figured the decision to sign would be relatively easy.

“We had prepared long before draft night and now,” Priester said. “We’re extremely comfortable and extremely ready to start my career as a Pittsburgh Pirate.”

As for the process of actually signing, that was more than filling out a form for the 18-year-old graduate of Cary-Grove High School.

“It’s one thing to hear it. It’s another thing to put ink to paper,” Priester said. “I was speechless. I went and hugged my sister, my parents, and it was surreal. It’s still kind of crazy. I’m just super excited to start playing baseball again.”

2. Priester drops random little nuggets in when he talks — he actually has a pretty decent nose for detail — and said he’s already made PNC Park the background on his phone.

Having played games in Wrigley Field, Petco Park and Tropicana Field for various high school showcases, Priester said picking a favorite isn’t hard.

“I’ve been to a few ballparks,” Priester said. “This blows the other ones out of the water.”

3. Another detail Priester dropped involved a message he wrote on his bedroom mirror in dry-erase marker: “First-round pick.”

Priester said he did it to ensure he saw the message every day, reminding him of his ultimate goal and what he was working toward.

One part of the message remains, the part that Priester said reads: “Get changeup better.”

“That one didn’t get erased,” Priester said.

“Looks like we have our one thing to focus on with Quinn as he heads out the door,” Huntington joked.

Yes, they do. Despite a 97 mph fastball and what Huntington described as “a hammer” curve, Priester lacks a strong third pitch.

That’s not uncommon for kids his age; hard-throwers can get outs with one or two pitches in high school. But starting soon, when Priester reports to the Gulf Coast League, the Pirates will get to work on his changeup — first learning about him as a pitcher, what he likes to do, how he grips the ball, what he’s previously tried, then eventually develop a plan.

That takes time, Huntington said.

“The first step is getting to know the young man, earning his trust, earning his respect, building a relationship, understanding what he’s done, how he’s gotten to this point, what has worked and what hasn’t worked,” Huntington said. “From there, it’s utilizing our coaches’ experience and the technology and data that’s available to us, then going to work to find [a changeup] that’s going to work for him, and how do we get deception, how do we get action, how do we get command and separation?

“It will be a systematic, well-thought-out process.”

4. Priester handled any questions about his arm.

As a junior, Priester did a horrible job of taking care of his arm. He did too much throwing as a quarterback on the football team, in addition to his usual workload as a pitcher. For whatever reason, there wasn’t a ton of preventive maintenance done.

That changed before Priester’s senior year, when he stopped playing quarterback, switched to wide receiver/tight end in the Trojans’ triple-option offense and beefed up what he did between starts.

The results, Priester said, have been noticeable.

“I don’t think my arm has felt better, to be perfectly honest,” Priester said. “This offseason, I went in with a throwing program and a plan. In between starts, I started to make sure I was doing all the right things from an arm-health standpoint. Doing all my band work, doing all my weighted-ball, plyometric stuff off the trampoline just to make sure my arm was recovering.”

5. There’s a lot to like about this kid’s makeup.

He comes from a humble background — Quinn got a $3.4 million signing bonus, and he and his family stayed at the Residence Inn across the street — and has an appetite to learn, as evidenced by the videos he would watch on YouTube or via the @PitchingNinja Twitter handle, trying to perfect tips from pros.

The Gulf Coast League can be a grind, and Priester knows it. But he said he’s ready for that life: early starts, a lot of put-your-head-down work and perfecting the art of pitching.

That, Priester said, is why he chose professional baseball over the possibility of playing two sports in college: his love of the game and trying to get a little better each day.

“Everyone talks about it being a grind and embracing that,” Priester said. “You can’t take it more than one day at a time. Every single day you have to want to get better. … I’m just going to try and enjoy the whole process.”

As for the rest of Priester’s stay in Pittsburgh, it was Primanti Brothers for lunch, crossing the Clemente Bridge and heading to Sixth St. for dinner and also some tourism-type stuff.

“Primanti Brothers, I heard that’s a spot I can’t miss before I head out,” Priester said. “I know that’s what we’re going to do for lunch. Other than that, we’re just going to enjoy the city and make sure we see what we can because it’s such a beautiful city.”

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