It is part baseball tale, part love story and part family fable at Royal Athletic Park as outfielder Jake Pries makes his Victoria HarbourCats debut this weekend.
His grandfather, Don Pries, played and managed at the same park for four seasons from 1951 to 1954 as a member of the minor-pro Victoria Tyees before going on to become director of player development and later assistant GM of the Baltimore Orioles during the Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson era, and later head of the major-league scouting bureau.
It was in Victoria that Don Pries met his wife and Jake’s late grandmother, the former Patricia Mason of Victoria, who was a fine basketball player and all-round athlete in her own right.
“Victoria was a very precious time for me,” Don Pries said on the phone from California. He can still recite Pat’s home address in Victoria without missing a beat: “It was 1916 Belmont Avenue.”
Now Jake Pries will take swings in the same park on Caledonia in which his grandfather played and in the city where his grandparents met. The full circle of the story is only starting to sink in for the younger Pries.
“It’s crazy,” he said.
“It was out of the blue that UCLA told me to play summer ball in Victoria. It was only about three weeks ago that I learned the rest of the story . . . that this is one of the places where my grandfather played pro and the city where my grandparents met. I can’t believe how this turned out.”
Jake Pries was drafted in the 37th round this year by the Orioles out of Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California, but decided not to sign pro and instead play collegiately in the NCAA for the UCLA Bruins. Pries will again be eligible for the MLB draft in 2018, at which time experts are expecting him to go much higher than the 37th round.
He follows his father, Jeff Pries, to UCLA, out of where the former Bruins pitching star was selected in the first round as the 21st overall pick of the 1984 MLB draft. Jeff made it to Triple-A in Columbus but his pro career only lasted four seasons due to a rotator cuff injury.
“I was blessed to have been married 57 years to Pat, and to have had Jeff as a son and Jake as a grandson,” said Don Pries, 87, who invented the first computerized system for baseball scouting.
With a lifetime in the game, Don Pries is enshrined in the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame and is a walking treasure trove of baseball knowledge. Asked what advice he gave his grandson as he embarked upon his Victoria WCL and then UCLA journey, Don Pries said he told Jake: “You have special God-given gifts. Take advantage of them. Listen to all your instructors and coaches and take from each what you believe is best for you. And remember, baseball is a game of constant adjustments.”
Granddad Don Pries, dad Jeff Pries and mom Barbara Pries will be coming up to watch Jake play in Victoria in late July.
For Don Pries, it will be a homecoming to Royal Athletic Park more than 60 years in the making. He recalled winning the Western International League championship in 1952 with a Victoria Tyees team that recorded a .631 winning percentage over a 153-game schedule. Perhaps Jake Pries can add another Victoria baseball championship to family lore in 2015.
Pries made his HCats debut on Friday night with a walk and a run scored in two at-bats as the Cowlitz Black Bears defeated the HarbourCats 11-8 in 10 innings.
The teams renewed acquaintances on Saturday night at RAP when the HarbourCats (5-9) lost 12-8 to the Black Bears (5-6). Pries had two hits in four at bat and one walk, with two runs scored and one RBI. Former Canadian junior national team player Luke Manuel got the start for Victoria and lasted only two innings, giving up six hits and five runs, three of them earned.
The HarbourCats and Bears conclude their set with a Father’s Day matinée today at 1 p.m.