Prater named new Patriots head Baseball coach
Seasoned coach and for-mer professional baseball player Pete Prater takes over as head coach of the Marion Patriots baseball team
Pete Prater’s journey on the diamond has taken the Corning, Arkansas native through college, into professional baseball, through almost two decades of coaching and now has brought the 45-year-old husband and father of two to the Marion Patriots as their new baseball head coach.
Though Prater is still getting familiar with the city of Marion, the former Nettleton head coach of 15 years is very familiar with the Patriots team, having played Marion at least once a year during his tenure as Raiders head coach. That familiarity with the Patriots program sold Prater on accepting the job as Patriots head coach.
“Baseball-wise, they’ve always got the athletes,” Prater said of Marion. “At Nettleton, we’d play them every year… I always was intrigued with the players. They seemed like they could get baseball players and get athletes. (They) just called and to see if I was interested in trying to change the direction and I said sure.”
The Patriots have made it at least as far as the state quarterfinals in four of the past five seasons under former Marion head coach Daniel Kelley. Prater, who says he has known Kelley for years and holds him in the highest regard, hopes that by bringing in a new energy to the Marion dugout he can help the Patriots bringing Marion High School a state championship in baseball.
“They’ve always had really good competitive teams, state-tournament type teams,” Prater said. “Just, trying to get over that hump and get a state championship like everyone else wants to. And, it’s possible here. It’s just a matter of can you get the right combination of guys, get the right guys in here and get guys that will stay with you?”
Keeping local talent in the school district is a big priority for Prater who says he was upset to hear of several players from Marion School District leaving the confines of Marion in favor of playing elsewhere.
“Hopefully, we can come in and present some new ideas and new ways of doing things and keep kids around,” Prater said.
Prater has a lengthy baseball resume by this point in his career. After playing collegiate baseball for Three Rivers Community College and Southwest Missouri (now known as Missouri State College) the former pitcher was drafted into the San Francisco Giants in the seventh round of the MLB draft as a junior in college. Prater played professional baseball for nearly five years before returning to the game as a coach, eventually landing at Nettleton High School where he managed the Raiders for 15 seasons. Feeling he and the Raiders needed a change, Prater left coaching to venture into the restaurant business for a couple of years before coming back to coaching as the softball coach at Trumann High School for a couple of seasons.
Prater figures that he averaged around 22 wins per season as head coach of the Raiders, winning 12 conference titles out of the 5AEast in 15 seasons, never missing the state tournament. However, Prater says his biggest accomplishment has been watching so many of his players continue their baseball playing careers at the college level, something that has special meaning to Prater as he says if it wasn’t for baseball he would not have had that same opportunity.
“My biggest accomplishment that I like is that there are a lot of our kids that went on to play college baseball,” Prater said. “Just stuff like that, where you get to see kids getting to go on and play and try to get a college scholarship out of baseball money.”
“When I was playing, my mom was by herself and divorced when I was probably six,” Prater added. “We didn’t have the money for me to go to school and that was always my goal. I always had that goal and dream. It seems like I always wanted to fight for that. I knew I had to and I loved that game. That’s where I developed that love for the game and I don’t know where my life would be right now if I didn’t got to school on baseball money. I don’t know if I could’ve went. So, I always look at it as, my goal is to send them somewhere, if they want to go.”
Prater says that growing up without much money now drives him as a coach to seek out players that are growing up in a similar lifestyle. The former Trumann coach isn’t familiar with the city of Marion just yet, but has been trying to get familiar with neighborhoods that have children who might need that baseball money more than others in hopes of getting a college education.
“You need to know the demographics of where these kids are coming from,” Prater said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do today, just drive around and get to know what some of these neighborhoods look like and maybe where some of my kids are going to come from. Maybe, I’ve got a kid living in a neighborhood and he can’t afford the shoes on his feet. But, he’s an athlete and he’s not playing something. That’s going to be my mission, to get those kids out and try to get them to play in something because you don’t ever know what can happen. And, they might find their way out of that situation one day. I enjoy that. I come from that. We didn’t have a lot of money. So, that’s what I look for those kids, an opportunity that they may otherwise not see.”
Throughout his tenure as a coach, Prater says he has learned to go easier on his players. While he still believes it is important to demand high-quality performances out of the young men who play for him. Time has given Prater a softer touch.
“I was fiery,” Prater said of his early coaching days. “I’d go at it at the drop of a hat. If something didn’t meet my liking, I was one of them that would show it out loud. I would go after it. I would go after the kids out loud and hard. Now days, I think I’ve kind of relaxed a little bit. Now, I get in them. There’s no doubt about that. I get in them and I demand a lot out of them. But, as far as respecting those kids, you’ve got to be able to do that and pat them on the back.”
Prater’s inaugural season with the Marion Patriots begins this February.
By Collins Peeples