Jordan Pries is one of those down-to-earth guys. He's the kind of person who would stop to shake your hand or sign an autograph -- with a smile.
The Alameda native is already well-known for his accomplishments in baseball around these parts.
He played for Alameda Little League. He went to Alameda High, where he won a North Coast Section 3A East Bay title. Then he went on to have a storied career at Stanford where he was a weekend starter as a junior this past season.
"I think more than anything, my roots are in Alameda," Pries said. "I have a genuine love for the game playing youth ball in Alameda, on the dirt infield at Lincoln Park. Some of my fondest memories are in Alameda."
But now the 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed pitcher is trying to make his mark outside the Bay Area.
A 30th round pick by the Seattle Mariners in June's first-year amateur Major League Baseball draft, Pries recently completed his first stint as a professional. He spent his first pro season playing for the Everett Aqua Sox, a Class A Short-Season team in the Northwest League.
He went 4-3 and had a 3.71 ERA in 12 games. He's struck out 46 batters in 51 innings.
"You're definitely prepared for it in college," Pries said. "People let you know about the grind in minor league baseball ... the hotel stay, nutrition tough to maintain. It hasn't been anything worse than I've heard. It's kind of difficult with the bus rides. Sometimes you drive 10 hours across the state of Washington. And you don't get used to the heating and air conditioning. You go from the Arctic Circle to the Mojave Desert in seconds.
"You got to love what you're doing. You learn to adjust. All the while, two weeks later you're getting a paycheck for it. It's surreal because it's something I love."
The Aqua Sox ended the 2011 seaason with a 4-2 loss at the Spokane Indians on Sept. 3.
That capped nearly a full year of playing baseball for Pries, who at this time a year ago was starting Fall Ball at Stanford.
"It's always good to give your body a rest," he said. "It's good to take a break from the game because you spend so much time around it. Your arm needs the rest."
While Pries gets that physical rest, he won't get a total mental break. When he signed with the Mariners, he also got MLB to pay for his final two quarters at Stanford. He begins his second-to-last quarter at the end of September.
In the span of a few months, he hopes to get his degree in science technology and society. He could have done that while playing his final year at Stanford, but after much consideration, he decided to go pro.
"My goal was to finish school," Pries said. "What made it most difficult is Stanford is going to have a great year. But when I talked to people here, they said you can't get that extra year back when it comes to professional baseball. That first year is huge. You're younger and you're already starting your career and that could help you out a lot."
By his junior year at Stanford, he emerged as one of the team's top starters. He went 6-6 with a 3.41 ERA. He threw 97 2/3 innings and struck out 76 batters.
But when he got to the Aqua Sox, he didn't begin as a starter. His first six stints came out of the bullpen.
"The throwing program is much different here," Pries said. "When I was in college, I threw maybe three days a week. Here I throw every single day to give my arm exercise, to help build up arm strength to get me through the year."
When Pries first got there, he had a 25-35 pitch count. He's slowly built that up to 85 and he's managed to make his way back to starter material. He's made six starts. But that bullpen experience has been invaluable.
"Now I know I can do it," Pries said. "I'll have more confidence in it as I move up through the ranks. You never know if you're going to get a couple of stud (pitching) prospects. It might be a quicker route and have more possibilities to make the bigs as a reliever."