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Long's dream of pro ball comes true
clay long pitching
Long County native Clay Long pitching for Chipola Community College in 2006. - photo by Photo provided.
Several youngsters who pick up a bat, ball and glove often dream of one day playing under the lights of a big league team. Clay Young, a right-handed pitcher from Long County, was no different. Ever since he stepped foot on a diamond in T-ball at the age of 5, his goal has been to one day reach the major leagues.
Tuesday, he became one step closer to his dream of playing in the major leagues, as he signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
He impressed Cardinals scout Mark Corson with his 94 mph fastball and his desire to play in big games.
“He’s a bulldog type player. He wants the ball and that’s the kind of stuff we look for,” Corson said. “He’s a guy who is not afraid to take the baseball.”
Long pitched for the University of Auburn-Montgomery of the NAIA in 2007. He went 9-1 with a 2.61 ERA, while striking out 73 batters and walking only 25 in 76 innings. He also recorded team-high five complete games with two shutouts.
Long helped lead the Senators to its best season ever, as they won a school-high 51 games and were ranked No. 4 in the NAIA.
Long was impressive in the NAIA Region XIII tournament in Jackson, Miss. He earned a win on May 8, going 5 2/3 innings and then two days later threw hard for 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision.
“He’s been in a lot of big games. The NAIA is pretty good and Clay stepped up to the plate,” Corson said. “He’s a Clemens type pitcher. He can bounce back. A lot of kids can throw hard, but they need four to five days rest. He can go back to back. I like guys who can come back quick.”
Because of the many innings Long pitched, this year and his ability to rebound quickly, Corson said Long may be used as a relief pitcher.
“I’m hoping he will relieve because he pitched a lot this year and we are worried about arm tiredness,” Corson said. “But, he may be a starter. They’ll take two good looks at him and decide where we go from there.”
Long arrived in West Palm Beach, Fla, Wednesday. He will practice for two days, then travel to either Batavia, N.Y. of the New York-Penn League or to Johnson City, Tenn. of the Appalachian League Saturday. Both teams are Class-A affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Long won’t have much time to get settled in to his new home, because the season starts Tuesday.
Long’s parents Kenny and Sherry Long are excited for him.
“I am very proud of him,” Sherry Long said. “He has realized a dream he has wanted for a long time. Ever since he was old enough to pick up a bat and a ball he’s talked about being a baseball player.”
Sherry Long did admit that it’s tough having her son a long way from home.
“As a mother, I have mixed emotions. You don’t want your child to live a long way away and be gone so much out of the year,” she said. But, at the same time, it’s a major accomplishment. He has worked very hard for this. He has put in a lot of time and practice.”
Before arriving at UAM in August of 2006, Long played two seasons at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla.
While at Chipola, he won 17 games as a pitcher to tie the school’s record for most wins. He also helped lead the team to the Panhandle Conference championship.
In 2006, Long was selected to the All-Panhandle Conference first team and in 2005, he was named to the second team.
Before the accolades in college, Long was racking up awards with Long County High School.
He started all four years for the Blue Tide on the mound and helped lead the Tide to Region 3-A championships in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, as a junior, Long County advanced to the Class A state quarterfinals.
For the Tide, Long was a two-time team MVP and selected to the All-State first team and in 2003, he was selected to the Georgia Dugout Club’s Top 100.
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