Minor League baseball player Shed Long says it’s the greatest feeling ever “from the standpoint of doing something in a game,” and Great Lakes broadcaster Chris Vosters brought the action to life.
“Long, on the day, is 1 for 2 with a run scored and a double,” Vosters’ voice rang while Loons pitcher Victor Gonzalez began his windup. “(He’s) batting with the bases load … and the pitch … is hammered, high and deep … down the right field line and that ball is … fair and gone. It’s a grand slam for Shed Long.”
The grand slam was the first of the Jacksonville High graduate’s professional baseball career. It stood as a top play in his minor league career until three days later when he hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning to lift his Dayton Dragons, a Class Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
“People can expect me to continue to get better and better every single year,” said Long, 20, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound second baseman. “I will prove every person wrong that said I wouldn’t make it or said that I was too small. Anything negative I hear, I turn it into a positive.”
His road in pro baseball started when signed with the Reds on June 19, 2013. Cincinnati picked Long in the 12th round, 375th overall, in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft.
“Getting the call was a once in a lifetime moment,” Long said. “It was what I had always dreamed of, and it was what my mom always told me when I was younger that she had a dream that I was playing in the Bigs and she has always said that.”
The dream started when Long was named tournament most valuable player when he batted .909 with six extra-base hits throughout the American Legion 15-and-Under state baseball tournament in the summer of 2011. He went on to play in showcases all over the Southeast, before playing with Alabama Baseball Academy.
“When we were playing over in East Cobb, I had two home runs in one game, and TCU — my dream school growing up — was at the game,” Long said. “After the game, the coach that was there emailed me telling me how I had a great game and how he liked what he saw and they were interested.
“Well, the email I had listed wasn’t the email I was actually using at the time, so I never saw the email until I went to finally deactivate the email address about a month and a half later. It’s funny how things work out, right?”
One of the biggest moments in setting the stage for Long’s opportunity with the Reds came when he played for Team Georgia in a big tournament in Jupiter, Fla.
“Every pro baseball team had all of their scouts there and every college in the nation was there along with every top high school player in the nation,” Long said. “We went 6-1 in the tournament with our only loss coming in the quarterfinals.
“I played every game and hit over .500 in the tournament. I really stood out at that tournament, and after that, that’s when the letters and calls from pro teams started coming. That’s when I finally realized that my dream was going to come true soon.”
Long has tallied 161 career minor league games and won’t turn 21 until Aug. 22. He has collected 142 hits, scored 70 runs and compiled 228 total bases. In his second year in the Reds organization (2014), he helped guide the Billingsley Mustangs to a Pioneer League championship at the Rookie Level.
To this point, 2016 is looking to be Long’s breakout season. Through 66 games, he’s batting .276 with 33 runs scored, 20 doubles, nine home runs, 39 runs batted in and 29 walks. He leads the team in all of those categories.