In 2021, the Baltimore Orioles selected Ryan Long PO ’21 in the 17th round of the MLB Draft. Almost two years later, he suited up to represent Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. While Team Great Britain failed to move on past the group round, Long showcased his talent on the world stage, allowing only one run across four innings pitched in relief, while also recording two strikeouts including one against Angels’ superstar Mike Trout. Before the Classic began, Long sat down with TSL to discuss playing for Great Britain and his professional career with the Orioles organization.
This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
TSL: How did you come to the decision to represent Team Great Britain (GB) and what was the process like becoming a member of this team?
Ryan Long: My mom’s side of the family is from England, [and] my mom’s parents moved over [to the United States] when my mom was young, that’s my UK lineage there. In terms of the team, I ended up talking to my college coach, Frank Pericolosi, and he’s really well connected in a niche area of European baseball. He actually did know someone very close with the team, Brad Marcelino, the hitting coach for the Great Britain national team. They told me that I was included in the early roster [and] it was a no brainer for me to accept. I knew it would be an amazing experience to represent the UK, my mom’s side of the family, [and] my grandmother, who’s still around and a really big influence in my life.
TSL: Earlier this year, I spoke with Jake Lialios PO ’20 along with some current members of the Sagehen squad about the importance of the collegiate summer leagues in player development. Could you speak on your experience with the summer leagues and what kind of role they played in getting you where you are right now?
RL: They’re such an important part of my development as a baseball player. We play in one of the best [Division III] leagues in the country out in the SCIAC, but you don’t get the same competition level that you do in summer league. [Coach Pericolosi] has a lot of good connections across the country for summer leagues and he helped get me a temporary contract with the Cape Cod league team. That was really the reason that I was able to get drafted by the Orioles, just getting out there and being able to show myself on a bigger stage.
TSL: The World Baseball Classic gives Minor League players the opportunity to both face off against the premier talent of the Major Leagues, as well as play alongside of. What has been your mindset going into a matchup with a team like the USA that features so many elite MLB players and what has it been like playing with current MLB talent?
RL: It’s very surreal thinking about it. I’ve been trying to make sure that I have [two separate mindsets]: one in the game and one in the experience of the whole. In the experience as a whole, this is an amazing opportunity just to be out here. I’ve been trying to take it all as best as I can. This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a baseball player. When it comes to the game, obviously, I’m going to be facing high level hitters. But it’s the same game. As a pitcher, you generally can dictate the pace of the game, you’re the one throwing the ball. I think it’s important just to remember that. I believe that if I can go out there on the mound and make my pitches, I think I’ll do just fine.
[Playing with Major League players has] been really cool. We have a Reds’ pitcher, Ian Gibaut, [and] I spent a while talking to him just about his grips, trying to see how he throws a slider and trying to pick his brain as much as possible. We have a few guys who have been on this national team for eight to ten years. They know how the team functions and how to succeed against competition that you might say is better than [us]. It’s been an awesome experience for me just trying to take in as much information as I can.
TSL: What kind of activities does Team GB do for fun? Have there been many team bonding activities off the field?
RL: It’s a team tradition that all these new guys go out to a very public area and sing the UK national anthem as loud as they can. That was a super fun activity and just makes you feel like part of the family.
TSL: Looking at both Great Britain’s roster, as well as the Delmarva Shorebirds, there are players hailing from all around the world. What has it been like playing with such a diverse group of guys?
RL: An amazing aspect of baseball that I think sometimes gets overlooked is that it’s really a global game. Being in affiliated baseball with the Orioles and being here in the World Baseball Classic, it just proves to you that this is not just an American game. Back with the Shorebirds, half [of] my teammates speak a different native language than I do. But at the same time, we can relate in our experiences in this game. That’s something that I’ve not hadn’t gotten in my past experiences in baseball, playing in high school and college or even summer ball. Getting to see these people from different walks of life, different parts of the world, different cultures, all coming together and playing the same game [is] definitely very special to me.
TSL: Going into your second full year with the Delmarva Shorebirds, could you speak on what your experience has been like so far, and any goals you have for this upcoming season?
RL: I spent the whole year last year with the Shorebirds [and] it was a big learning year for me, [figuring out] how to pitch at this new level. All in all, I felt like I had a pretty successful year. For this coming year, my goal would be to advance up [to the] next level. [Additionally, I’d like] to continue to develop all my pitches, become a more mature pitcher on the mound and just execute] at a higher level.
TSL: What advice would you have for any current Pomona-Pitzer athletes looking to continue their careers at the next level?
RL: [At Pomona,] I prioritized academics and had time for other activities that interested me. That’s not something that I would ever say someone should shy away from because I think it makes you a more well rounded person. In terms of the athletics themselves, continue to be the best player you can be. As cliche as that is, as long as you keep advancing your skill set and making yourself a stronger athletes and a stronger competitor, and along with that, trying to get yourself in front of the people that you need to get in front of to advance to that next level, that’s the best thing you can do.