(photo credit: Shaw Media Group)
These are very exciting times for Quinn Priester, a right-handed pitcher and designated hitter for Cary-Grove High School who will throw for the Trojans (22-13) in their Class 4A McHenry Sectional against Huntley (28-9) at 4 p.m. today.
In addition to the IHSA state playoffs, the 6-foot-3, approximately 200 pound senior was named the Gatorade Illinois Baseball Player of the Year on Thursday, and he’s projected to be a mid-first round selection in the Major League Baseball Draft on Monday night (6pm central, MLB Network).
Priester enters today’s single elimination game sporting a 7-2 record with a 1.04 ERA and a WHIP of 0.76. In 53 2/3 innings he struck out 80 batters, walked 12 and allowed just 29 hits.
He also gets it done offensively, as he entered Memorial Day weekend hitting .308, with one home run and 20 RBIs.
We spoke with Quinn Priester by phone yesterday, and during our exclusive conversation we covered a wide range of topics. With the MLB Draft now only five days away we asked him what he thought about all the speculation of where he might go.
“I kind of just take it for what it is, those mock drafts- it’s really really cool to see your name high up there in the draft, but it’s not like (Chicago Cubs Team President) Theo Epstein or any of the GMs are making those,” Priester said.
“It’s other people who have their own opinions and biases. It’s really cool, but at the same time you got to take it with a grain of salt, because the draft is so ridiculous that things can change in a matter of seconds, and those mock drafts don’t really mean much to the teams.”
Priester doesn’t have any huge plans for draft night, but he does plan to watch the event with family and friends. He’s trying not to think about it too much, as he’s currently focused on trying to win a state title with Cary-Grove baseball, to supplement the state title he won with the Trojans football team in November.
This fall he switched from quarterback to tight end/split end and defensive back, where he was a two-way starter for the Class 6A state champions who went 14-0. Priester was consistently able to find the end zone off of fade routes and jump balls.
In the summer he made the decision to focus on baseball, and he said that his future is on the diamond, not on the gridiron. However, he was able to leave the game of football by going out on top.
“It was surreal,” he said of winning the state title.
“Playing four years, we had that exact goal every year and to keep coming up short, and to win your senior year, going out it almost feels like you can retire after winning a Super Bowl.”
Priester hopes to throw at least two or three more times for the navy blue and white, and have the same happy ending with the baseball team that he did with the football team.
Last summer, he had the opportunity to play in some MLB ballparks, where he participated in a few nationally relevant all-star games.
Playing in Wrigley Field was an extremely special opportunity for Priester, who is a Cubs fan.
“Having a bunch of family and friends there supporting me, being so close to home and watching so many games, it was really an incredible moment and an amazing opportunity that I had this summer,” he articulated.
Whichever Major League ball club selects him on June 5th, they will do so knowing that he has been committed to Texas Christian since his sophomore year. TCU has become one of the most successful programs in the nation in recent years, appearing in the College World Series from 2014-17.
Priester credits TCU pitching coach and lead recruiter Kirk Saarlos as one of the main reasons that he committed to the Fort Worth university.
“He is someone that I know is going to get me better on the field, but also off the field so I think that was one of the main driving factors of my commitment,” he explained. “Winning program, warm weather and a great school as well.”
At TCU he plans to major in marketing and minor in psychology. He currently boasts a 3.73 GPA at C-G. Priester comes from a family of athletes, with the grandfather on his mother’s side being the most notable, as he played college basketball for Niagra University.
Scouts love his athleticism, almost as much as they admire his four seam fastball, with a velocity that tops out in the mid-high 90s. That’s complemented by his curveball, which some believe might be the best of any pitching prospect in this draft class.
He mentioned the best traits that he brings to the table: “athleticism, and I think I’m one of the more composed pitchers out there- I keep my emotions in check.”
While also affirming what a lot of the scouting reports say- he really needs to further develop his off-speed pitch in order to take his game to the next level:
“No doubt about it, my change-up needs to be a lot more consistent.”
In terms of players he models his game on, he listed two including The Professor, current Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks.
“I think he’s incredible for doing what he does with the stuff he has,” Priester said of the 2016 World Series champion, who also claimed the ERA title (2.13) and finished third in Cy Young award voting.
“He started off a little slow, made some changes and now he’s awesome, so it’s really fun to watch those changes take place and see him get so much success from it.
The other pitcher is Walker Buehler, the Los Angeles Dodgers starter who was the 24th pick in the 2015 draft out of Vanderbilt, who boasts a 14-6 record, 3.12 ERA and 1.035 WHIP thus far in his young career.
“He’s electric, throws hard, spots up, nasty off-speed stuff- so I really enjoy watching him,” Priester said of Buehler.
In addition to his athletic and academic prowess, Quinn Priester is also very active in the community, having done an extensive amount of philanthropic activity. We’ll cover that topic and more in part two of this exclusive interview feature, which will run after MLB Draft night.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, also contributes to Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.