“Hey, dad,” Ray Kinsella says to the ghost of his father. “You want to have a catch?”
“I’d like that,” John Kinsella says in the final words of the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”
There aren't any long-dead ballplayers walking out of the cornfields of McHenry County – that we know of – but one ballplayer is playing catch with dad again for the first time in years.
Pirates 2019 first-round draft pick Quinn Priester is home, along with the rest of professional baseball. His throwing regimen now consists of catch with his dad Andy Priester in the backyard. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on the 2020 baseball season for the foreseeable future.
“The Pirates set us up with in-home stuff based on what we have available,” Quinn Priester said. “It’s pretty much all body weight, high-rep stuff, to keep us in shape. And I’m playing catch with my dad. Just going along with what the health experts who know about the virus are telling us to do.”
The 19-year-old Cary-Grove graduate can hit the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball and was selected 18th overall, directly out of high school, in last year’s draft. Andy Priester stopped playing catch with Quinn sometime around Quinn's freshman year of high school.
“Nowadays, it’s not the speed as much as it is the movement,” Andy Priester said. “When these guys are younger and throwing hard, when it’s straight and level it’s one thing. His ball has so much movement, and look, my eyes aren’t getting any younger. It’s harder to pick it up. I do the wise thing and I get out of the way when things are really moving.”
Suffice to say, Andy Priester isn’t donning a catcher’s mask anytime soon. Right now, it’s just catch. Quinn isn’t doing any bullpen sessions or anything like that. That will wait until MLB comes up with some sort of plan for the 2020 season.
Asked how his arm’s feeling, 48-year-old Andy said, “I’m no spring chicken. It’s good enough to get the ball back to Quinn.”
Quinn Priester said the plan had been for him to start the season with the Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers. The team was scheduled to start the season April 9.
“We’re trying to stay ready, but it’s a really difficult balance,” Quinn Priester said. “When you’re in spring training, you’re building up.
“Now, we really don’t know when that day’s going to be. Being able to make sure we’re staying healthy, but not overdoing anything, it’s kind of a weird balance. Usually, right now, we’re playing baseball games.”
This season would have been Priester’s first full season of minor league ball, a full 140-or-so games.
Before the season was postponed, the Pirates took the coronavirus concerns seriously at their Bradenton, Florida, facility dubbed “Pirate City.” There was hand sanitizer all over the place, Priester said. Players were advised not to sign too many autographs.
Major League Baseball announced that spring training was postponed on March 12. The beginning of the season was officially postponed on March 16. Commissioner Rob Manfred advised teams to end all organized workouts. Priester said he returned home a little more than a week ago, on March 14.
After working out all winter with White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas at a gym on Chicago’s South Side, Priester is making do with what he has at his disposal at home. That means lots of squats and push-ups.
“It’s just a crazy time we’re living in right now that nobody could have predicted,” Priester said. “It really kind of shows you that you don’t know when that last day of baseball is going to be.”
Andy Priester thought his days of catch in the backyard were over. If it helps keep Quinn’s arm shape, he’s willing to do it.
“I know he has his goals,” Andy Priester said. “Look, throwing the ball with your dad is keeping you in shape, but it’s probably not advancing him as much as where he wants to go. I feel terrible for him and his teammates. He’s doing everything he can to stay in shape and perfect his craft. It’s great to have him home, but I certainly understand the frustration that this entire situation causes everybody.”