Priester set to cap super summer

Photo: Quinn Priester (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Friday, August 3, 2018

See also: Classic supports Rady Children's Hospital

The excitement and exuberance expressed in his voice was unmistakable, and Quinn Priester didn’t waste his words. When asked last week how his final summer as a high school student was moving along now that there were only a couple of weeks remaining, he got right on top of it.

“Overall, this summer has been awesome and August just can’t come soon enough,” he told Perfect Game, speaking over the phone from his home in Cary, Ill., in the far northwest Chicago suburbs.

The summer right ahead of a teenager’s senior year in high school can often be a season of awesomeness, especially for a young man like the gifted Priester.

An all-state caliber performer in both baseball and football at Cary-Grove Community High School, he spent the summer pitching from big-league quality mounds sprinkled across the country, including the ones at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the home of the Rays, and Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Cubs venerable old home.

And, as a finale on Aug. 12, he’ll step out on the mound at Petco Park in downtown San Diego – the home of the Padres – and put in an inning of work for the West team at the 16th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic.

Priester is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander and a Texas Christian University commit who used a strong performance at the PG National Showcase at The Trop in June to rise to No. 9 overall in the class of 2019 national prospect rankings; it also earned him the invite to the PGAAC.

He is the only prospect from Illinois to be invited this year, but he will enter the game as the No. 3-ranked right-handed pitcher in the 2019 class, behind only Georgia’s Daniel Espino and North Carolina’s Brennan Malone.

“It has been the most incredible summer so far,” Priester said. “Mostly it’s the places I’ve been and how great The Trop and Wrigley are – the opportunity to play in those big-league ballparks is second to none. And then, the competition (level) has taken almost two steps up.

“The best of the best from their class, competing head-to-head, and I just love that atmosphere. I think that has made me a lot better, and it’s gotten me to throw better pitches and work on a little more movement and that kind of stuff.”

At the PG National, Priester watched with an added appreciation the athleticism exhibited by the class of 2019’s top prospects. It was most evident in the 60-yard dash where 27 athletes covered the distance in 6.59 seconds or faster, 13 ran 6.48 or better and an elite eight got it done in under 6.33 seconds.

The fastest of the fast was Carthage, Miss., outfielder Jerrion Ealy, who set an event record when he crossed the line in a sizzling 6.13 seconds. Ealy, like Priester, is a prep baseball/football standout who plans to pursue both sports at Ole Miss.

“I have a lot of respect for a lot of the guys in the class just because there’s been a lot of multi-sport guys,” Priester said. “Some guys have kind of dropped it for their senior year but to see all these multi-sport guys and see them compete … and I think it’s awesome.

“It’s really fun that maybe it’s starting to go back to more multiple sports guys instead of just focusing on baseball. I truly believe doing multiple sports has been a big part of my success.”

Priester took over as the starting quarterback for the Cary-Grove football team last fall and helped guide the Trojans to a 7-4 mark; he has been playing with the varsity in both baseball and football since his sophomore year. He pitched just 14 innings for the baseball team this spring – he was limited by forearm tendinitis and is 100 percent now – but was among the team’s best hitters slashing .367/.467/.422 in 31 games and 106 plate appearances.

Priester said the two sports are definitely more different than they are alike, but he was quick to add that he feels those differences have also made him better at each sport. They’re both competitive, of course, and what he called the “weight room grind” that comes more with football than baseball has helped build his endurance and his work ethic.

“Football is more physical but you still need to have the mental side and I think that’s where baseball helps my football game,” Priester said. “The mental side of baseball has gotten me to a point where I honestly feel like I’m a couple of steps ahead of some of the other guys in football just because of the way that baseball is structured; the two really complement each other in that sense.”

Unlike Ealy, Priester has no plans of furthering his football career in college. He did say that he told TCU head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle of his plans to play football this fall, and Schlossnagle completely endorsed the plan.

“It’s definitely reassuring,” Priester told the Northwest Herald online newspaper in June. “(It’s) like someone’s got my back in this, because there’s been a lot more people pushing me not to play football than there are to play football. It’s kind of reassuring to have support from somebody who really cares about me and my future.”

When a young, elite two-sport athlete and student (Priester carries a 3.9 GPA at Cary-Grove) is faced with balancing the demands put on him from schoolwork, homework, film-work, workouts, practices, games, family and friends, time management becomes another fulltime job.

Priester struggled with that aspect of things during his freshman year but was fortunate to have a couple of his teachers step in and help: “Now, going into my senior year I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it – schoolwork first and then sports,” he said. “That’s how my parents have taught me and that’s usually how it works.”

Having never had a pitching coach with whom he’s worked with one-on-one, Priester has instead tried to digest as much information from as many different coaches and instructors as he can find.

He feels that has been beneficial simply because he knows there are many facets of pitching that he still needs to learn and there’s a lot he can still get better at. And, he’s already pretty good for a kid still two months shy of his 18th birthday.

“I think my development (as a pitcher) has come through taking bits and pieces (of information) and looking over each start and see what I did well and see what I didn’t do well,” Priester said. “I’ll work on it over the next couple of days and go back out having a plan for every start.

“That’s how I’ve gotten better and that’s how I’ve progressed, but there’s a lot more that I can learn,” he added. “I can still get a lot better than I am now.”

Priester credits one of his summer-ball coaches, Michael Phelps (not the swimmer), with helping him get more national exposure by getting him hooked up with the California-based Phenom Signature program early in the summer of 2017.

He won a championship with the Signature at the 2017 PG 16u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic and earned all-tournament recognition pitching for them at the 2017 PG 17u WWBA National Championship. Priester also threw a scoreless inning at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship in early July, pitching for the Blackhawks National.

“(Phelps) took me out of Illinois where nobody was really noticing me,” Priester said. “He kind of believed in me … and he’s definitely had a lot of faith in me. He’s always got my back and he always has my best interests in mind, and he’s just a real class guy. He’s definitely had the biggest impact on me baseball-wise.”

This won’t be the first time Priester has traveled to San Diego to take part in a high-profile PG event. He was at last year’s Underclass All-American Games, a showcase held annually on the Monday-Tuesday immediately after the Classic is played. Priester earned Top Prospect List recognition at the Underclass Games and he also attended last year’s Classic.

“I got to watch that in person, which is awesome,” he said. “Seeing some of the Midwest guys like Alek Thomas and Jarred Kelenic out there kind of gave me a little bit of motivation that I need to be there and represent the Midwest. And, also, just being at Petco Park – it’s so beautiful – it provided a little kick in the butt to get going and get to working a little bit harder.”

It may have been the first time he saw the Classic in person but it wasn’t the first time he had watched the game. He stumbled across the tape of the 2016 Classic on the Internet a while back and that was what first piqued his interest in being a part of the game; he was determined to make it happen.

Also while at last year’s Classic, he was also made aware of the event’s tie-in with Rady Children’s Hospital, and the fund-raising efforts and the visit to the hospital the All-Americans had been involved with leading up to the game. That, too, piqued his interest.

“I remember last year I saw Kumar Rocker and all these guys posting about it on Twitter, and I thought about being involved with it,” Priester said. “I want to raise the most (money) and I want meet these kids and I want to have a great time with these kids.”

At some point on the evening of Aug. 12, Quinn Priester will toe the rubber at Petco Park, marking the third time this summer he’s thrown from the mound at a big-league stadium. Family and friends, including parents Andrew and Christine Priester, are likely to be in attendance for one last fling, putting a capper on this “awesome” summer of 2018. And then, it will be football season.

“My main focus has been finishing off this summer baseball season strong and kind of wrap up a good summer for myself, but as soon as baseball is over I’m going to be 110 percent football out there,” Priester said. “I’m going to be missing about a week-and-a-half of (practice), which kind of stinks. I wish I could be there with the team but baseball is what I want to do with my future.”

That future is now, and that’s a good thing, even if it does means it’s time for Priester to bid farewell to the awesome summer of 2018.

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