- Gary Schatz Contributing Writer
Shed Long loved football, Auburn football to be exact, but at 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds, the former Dayton Dragon decided baseball was his destiny.
Blessed with exceptional athletic ability, Shedrick Bernard Long played football at Jacksonville High School near Talladega Alabama, where his father, also named Shed, was a police officer. Long played slot back and cornerback.
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“I played a little bit of running back, but I was always better in baseball, for sure. I stopped playing football in ninth grade. I played point guard in basketball until after my junior year,” said Long, whose brother, also Shed, was an outstanding football player.
With three men named Shed in the house, you’d think his mother would be confused.
“We always knew,” Long said. “My brother was Big Shed. I was Little Shed. My father was Officer Long. He was an officer for 20 some years. He’s retired now.”
The 22-year-old was drafted by the Reds in the 12th round in 2013. Long was a catcher in the Arizona Rookie League in 2013 and short-season Billings the next year, but his athletic ability prompted the Reds to move him to second base.
“After spring training in 2015, they felt like I had the athleticism of an infielder and they wanted me to focus on hitting,” Long said.
Long stayed behind in extended spring to learn second base. He was assigned to the Dragons on June 12. Long played 42 games, hitting .283 with six home runs and 16 RBI.
The next season Long hit .281 in 94 games with Dayton. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 45. Long added 24 doubles and stole 16 bases, earning a promotion to Daytona on July 3 for three weeks. He hit .322 in 38 games for the Tortugas, adding four home runs and 30 RBIs. He was the Reds’ minor league hitter of the year.
“I loved Dayton,” Long said. “It was a nice stadium. The fans were great. I loved the fans. I had a great situation with my host family in Beavercreek. Jim McKinney took good care of me and was very welcoming.”
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They developed a close friendship.
“When I came back for the Futures Game, we had lunch. I got him tickets. We talk and stay in touch,” Long said.
The Reds are looking for a second baseman. With the departure of Zack Cozart, Jose Peraza will move to shortstop. Long is competing with Scooter Gennett and Dilson Herrera, who is out of options.
The Reds added Long to the 40-man roster in November after he hit .281 combined with Daytona and Pensacola. He hit 16 home runs, drove in 50 and stole nine bases. Long was voted the best defensive second baseman in the Florida State League by the managers. He was slowed at the end of the season with a bruised right wrist but earned a spot on the FSL All-Star team and was player of the month.
Not that he needed confidence, but he goes into the spring with the goal of making the roster.
“I am here to have fun and let my ability take over,” Long said. “I’m not going to put any pressure on myself, but the goal is to be in the big leagues this year for sure. There’d be no point in playing if that wasn’t your goal.”
Games start Friday and Long has enjoyed the first week, feeling comfortable, but he knows the challenges ahead.
“The guys have been great. I played in some spring games last year,” Long said. “I played with some of these guys coming up. I believe the statement that it can be harder to stay in the big leagues than to get there. You’re trying to take a guy’s job and he is working just as hard to keep it.”