The eyes of the Cary-Grove community were on Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Quinn Priester, a 2019 Cary-Grove graduate and Trojans all-time great, made his MLB debut and first start for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Cleveland Guardians at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Priester, 22, tossed three perfect innings to start the game but gave up a two-run home run in the top of the fourth and finished by allowing seven runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 11-0 loss. Priester threw 47 of 73 pitches for strikes while striking out two and walking two.
Priester is McHenry County’s second baseball player to make his MLB debut this season. McHenry West graduate Bobby Miller made his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in May.
Priester, wearing No. 64, needed only nine pitches to navigate a 1-2-3 top of the first inning after a 45-minute rain delay. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander retired leadoff hitter Steven Kwan and No. 2 hitter Amed Rosario on two pitches each.
He then got five-time, American League All-Star Jose Ramirez on a groundout. Priester was working with rookie catcher Endy Rodriguez, who also was making his MLB debut.
Priester struck out Josh Bell on a curveball at the bottom of the zone for the first out in the top of the fourth and his first career strikeout. Two batters later, Priester struck out David Fry.
Priester’s parents, Andy and Chris, were at the game and organized tickets for a group that included current and former Trojans coaches and teachers.
“It wasn’t really until high school when some of the [NCAA] Division I programs started to say hello and reach out to him, and we were like, ‘Wow, he’s more than a good local player,’ ” Andy Priester told AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh of Quinn’s path to the MLB.
“When he wound up being drafted [in the] first round by the Pirates and Quinn saw what the opportunity was, the decision was actually pretty easy to make.”
“Knowing the type of person Quinn is, it was just a matter of time. It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to get an opportunity, it was a matter of when. And today’s the day.”— Ryan Passaglia, Cary-Grove baseball coach
Cary-Grove baseball coach Ryan Passaglia, who coached Quinn Priester in football and baseball, was among the group to make trip to Pittsburgh. C-G’s football team was shown on the Pirates’ TV broadcast watching Priester while at football camp at Millikan University in Decatur.
Passaglia said he – and many others – knew Priester’s big day was coming soon.
“It’s amazing. It really is,” Passaglia said from Pittsburgh. “We had a pretty good suspicion it was going to happen this year. Again, I wasn’t surprised, I was excited. It was like, ‘OK, now it’s his opportunity to show what he really has.’
“Knowing the type of person Quinn is, it was just a matter of time. It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to get an opportunity, it was a matter of when. And today’s the day.”
Priester was the 2019 Northwest Herald Baseball Player of the Year, going 8-2 during his senior season with the Trojans with a 1.16 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. He was named the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year and also started on the Trojans’ 2018 Class 6A state champion in football.
Priester committed to TCU as a sophomore at C-G but decided to sign with the Pirates when they made him the 18th pick of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Priester joined the Pirates after pitching with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, where he started 18 games this season with a 4.31 ERA, 84 strikeouts and a 7-3 record. Since May 1, Priester was 6-0 with a 3.31 ERA, 59 strikeouts and 26 walks in 68 innings.
Cary-Grove graduate Ryan Weaver, who is two years younger than Priester and played with him during Priester’s final season, said he knew his former teammate was going to make it far when MLB scouts started flooding Trojans’ games.
Weaver, from his defensive position in center field, would see a bunch of radar guns go up simultaneously behind home plate after every pitch from Priester.
“The first time it happened, I was in center field and I could see the whole thing like, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ " Weaver said. “But then it just kind of became a normal thing, even though it really isn’t. It could have been very easy to turn into the ‘Quinn Priester Show,’ but he never let it get like that.”
Passaglia said nobody represents C-G better than Priester, who was shown on the Pirates’ TV broadcast before the game signing autographs and taking pictures with kids dressed in Trojans gear.
“Quinn is the quintessential Cary-Grove kid,” Passaglia said. “He’s an All-American kid, he’s talented but very humble at the same time, and he just keeps his head down and works hard. Many kids don’t have that determination and that focus.
“Quinn’s earned everything he’s got. There’s a lot of buzz in the community right now. We’re all behind him.”
Weaver is excited to see Priester tear up the big leagues.
“I think his ceiling is just as high as anybody else who steps on that diamond,” Weaver said. “He has the ability to do whatever he wants, and he has an insane amount of talent. That talent combined with his confidence and his work ethic, I think he could stay in the bigs a very long time and be successful.
“Super proud of him. I couldn’t be more happy for him and his family. He deserves it more than anybody.”