Quinn Priester taped a piece of paper on the mirror in his bedroom before his senior season of high school baseball at Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Ill.
On it, he listed two goals. One was to be a first-round draft pick. The other was to improve his changeup.
He reached one of those goals last week when the Pirates selected him with the 18th overall pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Priester signed with the Pirates on Monday night for a $3.4 million bonus and had an introductory press conference Tuesday morning at PNC Park.
Reaching the other goal will likely determine if he can evolve into a major-league starting pitcher.
“The velocity is increasing, he has the hammer, he’s working on his changeup because in high school he did the hitters a favor when he threw the changeup because they might actually hit it,” Neal Huntington said. “We’ll develop that pitch.”
Priester will begin work on refining the changeup when he reports to Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., in a few days. He will start his professional career in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
However, working on a third pitch can wait until Priester reaches Florida. Tuesday was a chance for this 18-year-old to celebrate being a first-round pick, touring the city and PNC Park and grabbing lunch at Primanti Brothers.
“I’ve seen a bunch of pictures of it,” Priester said of PNC Park. “I have one of them as the background on my phone, but seeing it in person doesn’t even compare to the pictures I’ve seen. It blows them out of the water.”
The GCL is a long way from the major leagues. The games start at noon in stifling heat and only a handful of fans are in the bleachers at the Pirate City complex.
However, Priester is excited about taking the first step on a road he hopes winds up in Pittsburgh.
“I think something everyone talks about is it being a grind, but I want to kind of try to embrace it,” he said. “You have to take it a day at a time. Every single day. You can’t skip it. It’s not like you can say, ‘I’m going to get better this week.’ That’s not how it works. I’m just going to take it day by day, pitch by pitch, and enjoy the whole process.”
The Pirates believe the process can end with Priester being a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Priester certainly showed the talent to potentially reach that status during his senior season at Cary-Grove when he was named the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year.
Priester had an 8-2 record, a 1.00 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. He also became the first Illinois high school player selected in the first round since the Astros chose right-hander Mike Foltynewicz in 2010.
Oddly enough, Foltynewicz is scheduled to start for the Braves against the Pirates on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park.
Priester also helped lead Cary-Grove to the Illinois Class 6A state title in football last fall as a standout wide receiver and defensive back. However, his heart has long been set on being a professional baseball player.
“I love baseball and I love football, but baseball is what I’ve always itched for,” he said. “It’s one on one, you versus the batter, it’s that mentality that really drives me. But it’s also a team sport, which I think is extremely cool, (and) what makes baseball different than everything else and why I love it so much.”
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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