Bearkat Legends: Luke Prihoda
Nov. 27, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins
The following story is part of a series featuring the Bearkats inducted into Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor this fall. All seven inductees will be featured in Today@Sam articles throughout the academic year outlining their lives and athletic journeys.
It takes a different breed of pitcher to close out a baseball game.
When you look beyond raw talent, tedious scouting reports and box scores, and all that stands between you and victory are the final three outs, few relievers have the mindset required to overcome the pressure and deliver for their teammates.
“There were people who had better stuff than me, but I always had the mentality that I wanted to get those crucial outs. I had the conviction that this was my time,” said former Bearkat closer Luke Prihoda, who entered Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor this month. “Pressure can either raise you up or make you crumble. I found that the adrenaline gave me the edge that I needed.”
Growing up in Weimar, Texas, baseball has always been a crucial part of Prihoda’s family. His cousin was already a member of SHSU’s Hall of Honor and two of his older brothers also played college baseball, one as a centerfielder for the Bearkats.
“We didn’t really take vacations,” said Prihoda. “We went to Babe Ruth League tournaments. Baseball was always a passion of ours.”
Prihoda pitched for the Bearkats for two seasons (2006-07) after winning a pair of state titles and beginning his collegiate journey at McLennan Community College. He would then help turn SHSU’s program around under former head coach Mark Johnson.
Thanks to two strong seasons with McLennan, he garnered interest from multiple schools, including Texas State University and the University of Texas at Arlington. The junior was all but committed to pitch at the latter, where current SHSU head baseball coach Jay Sirianni was a recruiter at the time. He had a change of heart when he visited Huntsville.
“Being on campus, where my brother and cousin had already played, and being so close to home made me feel like the Lord wanted me to commit,” Prihoda said. “When I called and told Coach Sirianni, he was a little shocked. But it was the right move for me, and I know he is happy to be a Bearkat now, too.”
Despite leading the team in earned run average (ERA) in 2006, Prihoda bounced around in multiple roles as a starter and reliever and the Bearkats struggled to find success on the field. During his senior season, however, he earned the closer role right off the bat and the team began to thrive under Johnson.
“When Coach Johnson got there, he brought a mentality of not settling, but striving for greatness,” Prihoda said. “It was an honor to be able to go out and compete with my brothers in crunch time when the game was on the line. I did not care who was in the other dugout, I expected to get people out and walk off the diamond a winner.”
That is exactly what Prihoda and the Bearkats did in 2007. SHSU earned their first of three straight Southland Conference Tournament titles and a berth in the NCAA Oxford Regional. Personally, Prihoda tallied 18 saves and posted a 1.61 ERA, earning him the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year award as the top closer in the nation. He was also an NCAA All-American, the Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, an All-Southland Conference First Team member and part of its all-tournament team.
“All of our talent came together and we were able to set the tone,” Prihoda said. “Playing at a high level and a championship level is always what you want. You want to be able to play for rings and be successful because you put in all that work with your brothers, but it’s the conversations you have and the friendships you make that stick with you.”
After his career at SHSU, Prihoda was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 24th round of the 2007 MLB Draft and spent three seasons in the minor leagues. He then briefly worked for a mutual company and became a pitching coach Texas A&M University-Kingsville before finding his true calling in life and faith.
“I have always considered myself a faithful Catholic who went to mass and participated in the sacraments,” Prihoda said. “I began spending more time with the Lord, saw what he was asking of me and, after two years of coaching, I realized He wanted me to follow Him in that calling.”
He then applied for seminary school in 2016 and became Father Luke Prihoda on May 13, 2023.
“It was definitely a call because this was not something I was seeking. I was 32 when I finally listened,” Prihoda said. “It has been a great gift and blessing to walk in the way of the Lord and try to do His will and pass on some wisdom to others, just like I tried to do in baseball to the underclassmen while I was pitching and my players when I was coaching.”
Prihoda returned to SHSU on Nov. 4 for the official Hall of Honor ceremony and was recognized during halftime of the Bearkat football game along with the six other inductees. Multiple family members were in attendance along with close friends, including Johnson, SHSU Athletic Director Bobby Williams and Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Thompson.
“It was a beautiful weekend and the first time I’ve been back to Huntsville since becoming a priest,” Prihoda said. “When I was a senior, I watched as my cousin was inducted into the Hall of Honor and thought how much I would love to be on the other side of this. I got lucky enough to have a really good senior year, not knowing if two years was enough to get me in, but it was a special year for the team and a special year for me. It was nice to accept this honor and see generations of SHSU excellence.”
Prihoda is currently assigned as a priest in Schulenburg, Texas, just eight miles from his hometown of Weimar.
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