Long aims to be ready for life in big leagues

Reds 2B prospect takes part in rookie program for off-field lessons

January 14th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Many times since the inception of the annual Rookie Career Development Program in 1992, participants have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. But it's one thing to get there, and quite another to stay and have a good career.
Reds second-base prospect certainly learned some things that he hopes can improve -- and extend -- his career.
"You really cover the whole nine yards of what's going to happen or what to expect when you get to the big leagues," Long told MLB Pipeline recently. "But some of that stuff is happening right now in the Minor Leagues."
The RCDP doesn't focus on improving baseball skills on the field. Instead, it benefits players like Long off the field, so they can focus more on their game.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association combine forces to run the RCDP. This year's program was staged in Miami, and among the topics covered was dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, drugs in baseball, inclusion and financial planning.
"It's been a great program. I've learned a lot. I'm definitely in a better spot now than when I got here," said Long, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Reds' No. 7 prospect.
Long, 23, appears to be knocking on the door to get a shot at baseball's highest level. He was added to Cincinnati's 40-man roster following the 2017 season and went to his first big league Spring Training last year.
At Double-A Pensacola, Long batted .261/.353/.412 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs in 126 games. It seems likely that he will begin 2019 with Triple-A Louisville.
"I had a few inconsistencies with my bat throughout the season," Long said. "It's not always going to be good, but it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. Overall, it was a pretty good year. Defensively I made a lot of improvements, and I'm still working to continue to make improvements. I really want to focus offensively this year just to be more consistent than last year."
Long was tabbed to play in the Arizona Fall League after the season. Even though he didn't post superlative numbers, he was using the time to tinker with his swing and make modifications.
"It was huge. It helped me to figure out myself more too," Long said. "There were a couple of adjustments, hitting-wise, that I made that came from me watching video alone and trying things out.
"Sometimes, you have to be uncomfortable. But you never know what's going to work unless you try it."
Drafted as a catcher on the 12th round in 2013, Long later converted to second base. A left-handed hitter with power, he can also hit to all fields. Defensively over the past two seasons, he's been ranked high by the managers in the Southern League and the Florida State League.
All of this for a player who stands at 5-foot-8 and has drawn comparisons to diminutive comedian Kevin Hart because of his size. That's no worry for Long, who lets his play stand tall for him.
"For sure. There's definitely a chip on my shoulder about that, always being the smaller guy," Long said. "I'm usually the smallest guy on the team anywhere I'm playing at. That doesn't hold me back. It really just makes me go harder."