The Major League Baseball Draft’s loss is going to be LSU’s gain.
Former Live Oak catcher Blaise Priester, who was projected to be picked in last week’s draft but went undrafted, announced on Twitter over the weekend he’ll be attending LSU after previously signing with Meridian (Miss.) Community College.
“For me to be in this spot right now, it’s amazing,” said Priester, a catcher who hit .426, with 10 home runs, eight doubles, six triples and 43 RBIs as a senior. He also walked 22 times while getting hit by pitch 15 times while being selected the District 45-A Gold Glove winner and the Livingston Parish co-MVP. “You’re playing as a kid, you go to LSU games, you get to watch all of them play and now having the chance to actually become an LSU Tiger, it’s unexplainable. The feeling doesn’t get any better.”
Priester said he experienced a roller coaster of emotions after not being drafted.
“You’re kind of down, but you kind of have to look at it as a good thing because God has a plan for everybody and you have to go through it as planned,” he said.
Priester’s journey to LSU began to take shape after he got a call from new LSU coach Jay Johnson on Monday night following the second night of the draft.
“The first phone call from Coach Johnson, you never know what the man’s going to say … so you kind of have the butterflies in your stomach,” Priester said. “But with me and how he spoke to me and how he approached me, it was very well known that if I was going to go to LSU, I’d love to be there while he’s there.”
Live Oak coach Jesse Cassard praised Priester for sticking to his guns during the draft process.
“The draft is a funny thing,” Cassard said, noting Priester was offered by some SEC schools in the fall before opting to go to Meridian CC. “Sometimes it goes the way that it’s supposed to for kids, and a lot of times, it doesn’t.”
“He was called,” Cassard said of Priester. “He could have gone, but the money wasn’t right. I had scout call in the 11th round wanting to know if he would take less money, and credit to Blaise, he understands his worth, and he stuck with it. He had a certain number that he wanted, and he wasn’t going to back down. I’m proud of him for doing that. You don’t want to become a lower value … You want to keep your price tag where you think that you fit, and that’s great, but he’s going to have to go to LSU for three years to get the money that he wants.”
Priester visited with Johnson on campus last Thursday.
“The big thing that really stood out whenever I took the tour was Coach Johnson telling me how he wants to work -- how he wants to improve the system,” Priester said. “(It’s) improving the system at a school that is a powerhouse program, but it didn’t really show it that well last season, and how he wants to turn it around. He started building his program pretty quickly as soon as he got there.”
Things progressed from there.
“I came home that night, talked it over with my parents,” Priester said. “I didn’t really know how it was going to go talking to my parents because of the money that it’s going have to take out of student loans and stuff, but I thought a little bit more on it, and Saturday, I made my final decision. I was like, ‘I’m going to be a Tiger.’ When you grow up, all you hear about is LSU and the Tigers playing, and I want to be a Tiger.”
“Right now, I’m probably going to be a walk-on on LSU’s baseball team this year, but just as Coach Johnson put it in his words, just because I’m a walk-on doesn’t mean I’m going to be treated like a walk on,” Priester continued. “Everybody’s going to have their spot and what they want to do, and you’ve got to earn your spot. It doesn’t matter if you’re a walk-on freshman or a scholarship freshman or a junior that has a scholarship already. You have to earn your spot.”
That doesn’t bother Priester at all.
“He (Johnson) was like, ‘We don’t have any money right now, but you can earn a spot. You can earn your scholarship in the next year’, and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve never said no to working.’ You’ve got to work for what you want,” Priester said.
Priester said another part of the process was informing Meridian coach Dillon Sudduth of his plans to go to LSU.
“It was very hard,” Priester said. “Coach Sudduth said even though it’s no hard feelings, I could tell in his voice that he was kind of disappointed in losing me, but in the game of baseball that we play, everything’s hard.”
Cassard said several factors played into Priester heading to LSU, including Johnson’s track record with catchers.
“The last couple of years, he’s had a first-rounder and second-rounder,” Cassard said. “That played a big part. Coach Johnson’s offensive philosophy plays a big part and getting there and playing and being alongside of (current LSU catcher) Alex Milazzo was another big part of it, so all of those factors considered, LSU was the perfect choice for him.”
“I think with Blaise watching some of these hitters that Coach Johnson’s got coming in, that’s what he’s going to be like,” Cassard continued. “That’s what he resembles -- some of these bigger, power, high exit velocity guys.”
Cassard said the LSU program getting a fresh start with Johnson at the helm also played a part in Priester’s decision.
“With him coming in, brand new staff, you get to play in front of 10 to 12,000 people, I think it made it a lot easier on him,” Cassard said.
“I’m pumped for him,” Cassard continued. “I can’t wait to watch him play him and Alex Milazzo and Brant (Smith) and a bunch of other kids that we know that are there under new leadership. I’m excited to see what happens. We knew he was an SEC player. He’s a day two draft guy. It didn’t work out, so we’ll see where it goes now.”
Priester is the fourth member of the Eagles’ 2021 team either going to or committed to an SEC school, along with Brant Smith (LSU), Reid Broussard (Texas A&M commit) and Cameran Christ (Mississippi State commit).
“It’s good for the program,” Cassard said. “Once we start getting those big SEC schools and Conference USA and Sun Belt, it only attracts more kids.”