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Darton’s Long signs MLB deal with Padres

Darton's Chris Long is headed to the Arizona Rookie League to begin his pro career after signing with the San Diego Padres on Saturday.

Darton's Chris Long is headed to the Arizona Rookie League to begin his pro career after signing with the San Diego Padres on Saturday.

PHOENIX — Darton right-hander Christopher Long’s dreams may have come true sooner than expected, but it figures that a kid who heaves a 96 mph fastball is used to things happening quickly.

The Zebulon native signed a MLB contract with the San Diego Padres on Saturday after just his freshman year with the Cavalier ball club. He was picked up in the 23rd round and is now entering Rookie Ball in Phoenix, where his Arizona League Padres will play 56 games in the next two-and-a-half months.

And he’ll play as a pitcher — a position that he’s been playing less than a season.

Long joined the Cavaliers in the fall of 2012 as an All-State catcher and outfielder out of high school. He was an award-winning hitter at Pike County High, and he had never pitched a ball game in his life before Darton State head coach Scot Hemmings put him on the mound in an inter-squad game late last fall.

Hemmings had noticed “the way his arm works,” he said, “it was a clean action.”

The fall season ended, and Long went home and discussed with his family one of the biggest decisions in his career as an athlete. Did he want to give up hitting and put all of his focus into pitching?

He came back from Christmas break, and in his first outing hurled the ball 95 mph. Then the major league scouts came to Albany to watch him work.

It was still raw talent though, and Hemmings said that he struggled on the mound during the first third of the spring season. There was a lot of work to do, but Long’s attitude and resilience carried him through.

“I’d have to go and pull him out (from the mound), and he never one time blew up,” Hemmings said. “He’d say, ‘Yes sir,’ and go back to work the next day. He kept working at it — he never gave up and lo and behold, he’s our starting pitcher in the region tournament.

“I’m just as proud as heck to be a part of that kind of success story.”

Long humbly reflected upon his beginnings with the Cavaliers on Saturday.

“It was awesome being down there with coach Hemmings and everyone else,” he said. “It was just a great year.”