By Brandon Speck
While his cohorts hopped from job to job or traded in their uniforms for dress shirts, ties and administrative roles, Brian Long stayed put.
For 30 years, Long has led the Itawamba AHS baseball team, and not once did he have a desire to trade it for an office.
“No, never,” Long said.
Long is calling it a career after the season, which continues tonight (weather permitting) as IAHS takes on Ripley in Game 1 of the Class 4A second-round series.
Itawamba AHS has been to three North finals series and is looking for the next step in Long’s final try. Long has had plenty of moments. He’s gone 539-320 and coached his share of stars, not limited to Cody Trotter, who played at Alabama, Jamie Rock at Mississippi State, and Clay and Brian Dozier.
Brian Dozier started at shortstop for Long for four years. He now starts in the same spot for the Minnesota Twins, where he gives a lot of credit to Long.
“Obviously he was a big impact in my life, as far as my developmental skills to fulfill my dream that I wanted to be a professional baseball player one day,” Dozier said. “I owe a lot to him in that regards. But I owe even more to the fact that he helped develop me as a man.”
Long’s team hung the lone blemish on another MLB draft pick. Tupelo’s Kirk Presley, who went No. 8 overall in the 1993 draft, had a 37-1 record in high school. Long’s team handed him the one loss.
He’s stepping down, he says, to let young blood take the program to another level he thinks it can reach. Top pitcher Vijay Miller and top hitter Brody Catt, both juniors, will have to adjust next season to the school’s first new coach in three decades.
“None of us want it to end,” Long said, “but it’s like I told the kids last week, ‘There’s not going to be but one team left standing when it’s all over. Why not let it be us?’
“Thirty years ago, we talked about a goal. We’ve got three weeks.”