Situated at opposite ends of collegiate careers this past season were brothers Lee and Mitch Longo of Eastern Michigan and Ohio University respectively.
The two both played high school ball in Mayfield, Ohio. He talks about his brother and his high school experience in this video interview conducted before this season.
Lee, who just finished his senior season, has been a staple in the Eagles lineup for four years in Ypsilanti while manning first base, and just completed the best season of his career. Lee led EMU with a blistering, MAC-leading .379 average. He also led the Eagles with 20 doubles, 108 total bases, and 49 runs batted in.
Younger brother Mitch left jaws floored in his freshman campaign in Athens. Hitting from the left side of the plate, the outfielder put up gaudy stats for a kid who is just now 19 and a half years old. Before an injury cut his season short, Mitch hit at a .346 clip and slugged .474, both good enough to lead the team. The agile 6'0" 180-pound frosh also tied for the team lead in steals with seven.
With one Longo at the tail end of his collegiate career in 2014, another's bright future took off. So with Lee's career at EMU now finished, and Mitch's in the midst of skyrocketing. Hustle Belt caught up with both brothers (Lee through e-mail and Mitch through phone call) to look back on the sibling success.
You guys are three years apart. How cool has it been to see each other have success - one in your first year at Ohio, the other in your senior season at Eastern?
Lee: It was a really cool experience as an older brother to watch Mitch grow as a baseball player as well as a person. We were always talking baseball with each other so when Mitch committed to OU, I was excited for the chance to play him for the first time. With all the success he had early in the season, I had our series marked on my calendar the whole season to see who would do better.
Mitch: It has been really cool to see us both succeed because we both work really hard growing up and working out together. And helping each other out in all aspects of the game and just having one motivator. Just kind of seeing each other grow has been the coolest part. We've been with each other through all of it. On and off the baseball field, so it's good to see your big brother succeed and do well, so it's exciting.
Did you two get to play with one anther growing up? Was Mitch good enough to play in older leagues or maybe play wiffleball with you and friends?
Lee: Mitch and I never played with or against each other on teams growing up. However we did have some pretty heated basketball games, ping pong matches, and wiffleball contests. It didn't matter what we were playing, we both were extremely competitive with one another. This helped us both grow as athletes and brought us closer together.
Mitch: We didn't play in any real games. I mean this year if I wouldn't have gotten hurt it would have been the first time and the last time I guess we've ever played against each other. But I mean, growing up the closest thing to that was I snuck into Cooperstown when he was 12 and I was the bat-boy. But I stayed with their team and was in the dugout. We played wiffleball games growing up and pickup games and things like that, but nothing really official. So if I could go back and do it again, I guess that would be the one thing that I wish I would have done more, is try [to play] with him a little more.
Lee, would you say Mitch emulates you in any ways? Is there anything you think you've taught him or helped him with?
Lee: Mitch has always watched me growing up so I'm sure he's picked up a few things from me. We both have the same competitive and aggressive nature towards the game, and that's something I'm extremely proud of to have instilled in my little brother.
Mitch: Yeah, absolutely. At the beginning of the year especially. I remember he just told me this is before my first game, I asked him how he handled every at-bat at the Division-1 level and everything like that, and he just said to relax and reset yourself before every at-bat, calm yourself before you walk into the box. Just let everything you know how to do take care of itself, and then he kind of walked me through how to stay calm and relaxed and just play how I know how to play.
I mean that really hit home with me, I did really well and after that we talked pretty much after every other game or series, or what teams we played, 'cause we were in the same conference so a little bit here, a little bit there, just kind of talking and a little bit of advice, though it was simple, it really helped me a lot. It worked out for me.
Lee: We were constantly calling and texting each other throughout the season. Since I've played at this level for 4 years, we talked a lot about what to expect and how to handle the ups and downs of the game, and of course there was a little trash talking comparing our stats.
Is there anything genealogy-wise going on? Is there a baseball gene in the family or is it just based on work ethic.
Mitch: I don't, know I guess it's a little bit of both. Like we all three, my youngest brother Jack is a sophomore (in high school, will be a junior in fall), and plays as well so I mean it has always been a big part of our family...I guess for the moment we're a baseball family. It's all year round we're always working towards it. But I mean a little bit of it I guess you could say is in the genes. But we're always working hard towards...getting better every day whether it be working out, hitting, throwing, just trying to do everything we can to try and make ourselves a little bit better and get a little an edge in the game. But yeah, I'd definitely say it's a combination of both so just genes or hard work.
Lee: My father taught us early on that in this game, you have to work for everything you want. So of course we both want to be as successful as possible so we were always hitting with each other and talking baseball. This helped us pave the way for success during the season.
Are there any cool stories you have about seeing each other play?
Mitch: Yeah, there was one moment we went to his first home game at Eastern Michigan, it was the first game I got to come out and see him play. I think their opening series on the year, I think the Oestrike Classic at their stadium at Eastern, went there with the whole family and saw my brother play...for the first time at college.
The first time that my whole family got to come up and see him play at home, and he (in his first at-bat) hit an opposite field home run which was really cool, and he told me 'one day you're going to be doing this and one day you're gonna be up here, just wait and keep working hard' and sure enough that's what happened. So it was really cool and I look back on it and watching him play and now I'm there.
It's really humbling to be a part of it and it's really cool to see your brother go through that and experience it too, so you kind of get two perspectives of the game, one is as a fan and a brother and a viewer of the game, and one of actually being a part of it and actually being a student of the game.
Lee: I remember during Mitch's junior year of high school I went to one of his games. Since I have been away from home at school I didn't really get a chance to see Mitch play as much as I'd like. So I really didn't know what to expect from him. During that game Mitch went 4-4 and that's when I knew that he was going to play at the next level and that's when I started thinking of the possibility of playing against him.
How do your parents/family navigate supporting your respective teams?
Lee: Luckily, both EMU and OU are both green. So whenever our family is at the game they play it safe with some neutral green clothing. Every weekend series, the family would bounce back and forth from game to game, making sure they didn't miss too much.
Editor's note: These interviews were modified slightly for content and sequence. A big thanks to the Longo brothers for their time and willingness to share their story.