In dealing with the deflating news he wouldn’t reach his objective of being drafted by a Major League Baseball team, Live Oak’s Blaise Priester now believes he got the next best thing.
Instead of being taken in the recent player draft where he was projected to be a second-day selection by several scouting services, Priester received a July 12 phone call from new LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson that changed the trajectory of his baseball future.
After unsatisfactory monetary offers from several teams during Monday’s second day of the draft, Priester appeared set to fulfill his commitment to Meridian (Miss.) Community College. He wanted to play at least his freshman season to improve his draft stock and take another shot at next year’s MLB draft.
Johnson convinced the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder otherwise. He was able to secure an official visit from Priester and his family on July 15, not only extending him a scholarship but an opportunity to compete and become the Tigers starting catcher at a position where there was already plenty of depth.
Priester, who didn’t consider staying close to home prior to the LSU’s coaching change, couldn’t have envisioned a better scenario and offered his commitment to Johnson..
“It’s a childhood dream,” Priester said. “Growing up in Louisiana, all you hear about is the Tigers and the Saints. It’s a dream for me. I grew up going to LSU games. I’ve always been a fan. To be really close to home will be a change in life perspective and when the draft does come there will be no messing around.”
Priester was regarded among the nation’s top high school catchers, drawing a No. 33 ranking from Perfect Game which rated him the No. 377 overall prospect.
Closer to home Priester, the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Star of Stars in baseball, was ranked the state’s ninth overall prospect and top catcher for not only his raw power, but also for his plus-throwing arm that controlled the opposition’s running game.
Priester was a first-team Class 5A All-State selection, batting .426 with 10 homers, eight doubles and 44 RBIs. He threw out 12 of 22 runners trying to steal for Live Oak, which captured the District 4-5A championship.
There was plenty of pre-draft talks from several teams. Priester even conducted individual workouts for the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros.
Priester looked forward to Monday’s second day of the draft where, based on early projections, he may fit somewhere into rounds 2 through 10. But things didn’t go accordingly.
“I had a (salary) number that I was stuck on, and they didn’t reach that number,” Priester said. “I had to go with my gut and turn some teams down because they were only going to give me so much and I said I’m just going to go to college, get my draft stock up and do even better.”
Until Johnson’s unexpected phone call, that appeared to be Meridian Community College where Priester was a long-time commitment.
LSU is already set to return experienced catchers Alex Milazzo and Hayden Travinski from last season. Johnson also further upgraded the position with the signing of graduate transfer catcher Tyler McManus of Samford.
Priester was already familiar with Milazzo when the two worked out during the coronavirus pandemic at Live Oak High School.
“Alex came to Live Oak to hit and (Live Oak) coach Jesse (Cassard) asked him to work with me,” Priester said. “I understood how Alex liked to work and the wheels started turning in my head. I wanted to work at the level he was working at.
“Alex has already caught at the D1 level,” Priester said. “He’s played in more college baseball games than I have being there going into his third year. I’m just coming out of high school. I have to work harder.”
Johnson’s offer at immediate playing time with a chance for Priester to start next spring against the nation’s toughest competition was simply too good to pass up at a program he’s always rooted for and will be joining high school teammate Brant Smith.
“That was a surprise,” Priester said of the call he received from Johnson. “You’re watching the draft and out of nowhere Jay Johnson’s calling. I was happy to talk and hear what he had to say. I got on campus three days later and everything went from there. I’m just ready to get back to work.
“He’s (Johnson) a genuine guy and a hitting guru. He’s also persuasive and helps a kid like me that’s 18 years old or kids like me they’re recruiting to come in and understand the things he’s trying to do. I love the spot I’m in right now. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and my family.”