Legendary player to be honored tonight
Bryan C. Hanks
Sports Editor - Kinston Free Press
Carl Long is a man who appreciates family. And although he loves his immediate family, it's his extended family - fellow baseball players who played in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s and '50s - that Long feels a distinct responsibility for.
To that end, when he is honored at Carl Long Day before tonight's Kinston Indians' game against the Potomac Cannons, Long said the celebration isn't as much for him as it is for the other trailblazing players who he played alongside in the Negro Leagues.
"There's not too many of us Negro League players left," said Long, who is 69. "I do what I have to do for those guys to help them."
Tonight marks the fifth year the K-Tribe has honored Long with a day at Grainger Stadium. Former Indians general manager North Johnson helped start the ceremonies in 1999, but current GM Clay Battin, who took over the reins of the club when Johnson left for California in the offseason, said he was happy to be a part of Carl Long Day.
"He's a walking baseball encyclopedia," Battin said. "If you have the time, it's fun to just sit and listen to him talk about his experience in the game. He's a great guy and this is a cool promotion for us to do."
At Monday's game, Long signed a hat and a baseball card for Kicine Murchison, a 12 year-old Rochelle Middle School student. While Murchison listened with wide eyes and undivided attention, Long put a hand on the youngster's shoulder and told him to study hard in school and to always put his grades first, even before sports.
It's a message Long gives to thousands of young people a year while speaking at high schools, middle schools and elementary schools throughout Lenoir County, North Carolina and South Carolina.
"I go all over the country talking to kids and telling them to stay in school," Long said. "I tell them to get their education and to be the best in anything they do."
When Long was playing for the Kinston Eagles in 1956, he never thought he'd become a Lenoir County icon nearly 50 years later.
"I never had a clue this would happen," Long said. "All I wanted to do was play baseball and get out of the cotton fields."