Senior traces love of baseball to Panamanian roots

Ike Hammond

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Just like many other Little Leaguers, senior Oscar Prioleau vividly remembers hitting his first home run. When he was 8, Prioleau worked the count to 2-2 and then got the pitch he was looking for he smacked it over the center-field fence.

“I think that was the hardest hit I’ve ever gotten in my whole life,” Prioleau said.

Prioleau, an enterprising baseball star, began at the age of 5, and similar to many most others started, he played in a small, local, semi-competitive Little League organization. Unlike many others, however, Prioleau quickly found that he had a natural aptitude for the game.

“I loved playing right away,” Prioleau said. “I’ve been above average since I was very small. I just kept moving up until it became more competitive.”

Prioleau was born and raised in Atlanta, and moved to Panama at age 9. He lived there with his mom for four years until he moved back to Atlanta. His dad was also a baseball player, and his mother, a native Panamanian, grew up in a country which has produced some of the greatest Major League players. When he moved to Panama, he began to hone his skills as a baseball player.

“The fields in Panama aren’t as nice, and there isn’t a lot of equipment,” Prioleau said. “Players in Panama are more humble and love the game more. They really have to prove themselves.”

His mother, Edilinda Prioleau, saw his performance improve and was able to tell that his practice with coaches in Panama was paying off. Prioleau had been attending a prestigious baseball academy in Panama run by Omar Moreno, a 12-year MLB veteran who played center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.

“I felt good because he started attending the Omar Moreno Academy, and he was one of the best players in Panama,” she said. “Oscar worked with Omar to improve while in Panama. I was proud for him doing well.”

Prioleau has already had many memorable moments in his baseball career, including is hitting his first out-of-the-park home run and being selected to represent Panama on its national youth team. Prioleau moved back to Atlanta at age 13, but he still remembers the help that he got from his coaches in Panama. He also said the strong support of his parents has provided a strong foundation for his growth as a player.

“I provided a lot of encouragement,” his mother said. “I try to be there as much as possible. I was always at his games.”

While seeing her son succeed, she also admitted that it’s hard to see him endure a tough game because he becomes so disappointed. Prioleau began playing for a travel team called the Atlanta Blue Jays at age 13 with fellow Grady student Liam Henry. Prioleau soon began receiving offers from colleges to play baseball. He knew the offers were going to start coming because he observed that many coaches from schools across the country came to watch him play. Prioleau had narrowed it down to either the Air Force or the Naval Academy. Though he is a member of Grady’s JROTC program, he said that military service was not a factor in determining where he wanted to go to school.

“I explained to him that he should make his decision based on the academic reputation of the school rather than the reputation of the baseball program,” father Oscar Prioleau Jr. said. “The Naval Academy has both an excellent academic reputation and a good baseball program.”

Prioleau’s older sister Monica attends the Naval Academy. Although it was not his first choice, Prioleau said it was the best offer he got.

“The Air Force Academy approached me first, and they gave me a ‘blue chip’ for academics, which meant my expectations were lowered,” Prioleau said. “I didn’t meet them right away so they had given my spot away by the time I got them back up.”

He wasn’t deterred by this setback, and is excited about attending the Naval Academy to play baseball. Prioleau hopes to join the ranks of Mariano Rivera, Rod Carew and his coach Omar Moreno as one of the greatest Panamanian baseball players.

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