Terrence Long was born in Montgomery, Alabama on February 29, 1976, one of twelve major leaguers to date to have been born on the leap year. He originally attended Millbrook High School, located in Millbrook, Alabama, but transferred to Stanhope Elmore High School, also in Millbrook, where he graduated from. Considered a good athlete with some speed and a nice swing, the Mets drafted him 20th overall, the second selection that the Mets made in the first round of the 1994 MLB Draft, having selected Paul Wilson with the first overall pick. The team obtained the second pick from the Orioles as compensation for them signing former Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez as a free agent. After signing for $500,000, he was assigned to the Kingsport Mets for the remainder of the season, where he hit .233/.340/.460 in 60 games, slugging 12 homers and stealing 9 bases.
He split the 1995 season between the Pittsfield Mets, their Short-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League, and the Capital City Bombers, their Low-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. Individually, he hit .257/.324/.412 with 4 homers and 11 stolen bases with Pittsfield and .197/.309/.258 with 2 homers and 8 stolen bases, for a combined .227/.316/.337 in 106 games with 6 homers and 19 stolen bases.
Long spent the entire 1996 season with the Bombers had an above-average season, hitting .288/.342/.457 in 123 games with 12 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Baseball America named Long the Mets’ 7th best prospect going into the 1997 season, and the 63th best prospect in all of baseball. He was promoted to St. Lucie but was unable to repeat the success that he had in 1996. Appearing in 126 games, Long hit .251/.310/.394, slugging 8 home runs and stealing 24 bases.
The 22-year-old was promoted to Binghamton in 1998 silenced the doubters that were beginning to emerge on the heels of his lukewarm 1997 season. Appearing in 130 games, Long hit .297/.380/.490, slugging 16 home runs and stealing 23 bases. Key to his improvement were the adjustments he made to his strategy at the plate, incorporating more analytical data to his at-bats and adjusting his plan at the plate according to the tendencies of the pitchers he was facing rather than utilizing a “one-size-fits-all” swing for the fences approach. Baseball America ranked Long highly once again, naming him the Mets’ 5th top prospect for the 1999 season.
Long began the season with the Norfolk Tides but was promoted to the Mets in mid-April when Rick Reed and Mike Piazza were both put on the 15-day disabled list. Long was called on as a pinch hitter twice, striking out both times, before being sent back down to Norfolk. He was called back to the Mets in mid-May and made one more appearance, grounding into a double play in a third pinch hitting assignment. While his performance in Queens was not at all impressive, Long was mashing for the Tides, hitting .326/.374/.487 with 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 78 games.
With a 57-41 and in contention for the playoffs, the Mets traded Long and 26-year-old Binghamton reliever Leo Vasquez to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Kenny Rogers. “He’s made of the right stuff for our team,” Bobby Valentine said of the Mets’ new aquisition. “He’s a credible left-handed pitcher. I think you can count those on one hand; maybe two, but you’re not gonna need your toes to count them in all of baseball.” “We’re ecstatic to make this trade and add a pitcher of this caliber,” Steve Phillips added. “We feel he’ll thrive in the National League.”
The outfielder spent the rest of the 1999 season with the Vancouver Canadians, Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate. In 40 games, he hit .247/.297/.351 with 2 homers and 7 stolen bases. Rogers posted a 4.03 ERA in 76.0 innings down the stretch, threw a clunker in the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and walked in the winning run to end the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Long began the 2000 series with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, who moved from Vancouver to Sacramento, becoming the River Cats. He only played in 15 games for them before getting a call-up to Oakland. Unlike his call up to the Mets in 1999, Long produced, and as such, he stuck. The 24-year-old ended up appearing in 138 games for the A’s, hitting .288/.336/.452 with 18 home runs and 5 stolen bases. He ended up the runner-up in American League Rookie of the Year voting, beaten by Japanese import Kaz Sasaki, who posted a 3.16 ERA for the Mariners and saved 37 games for them.
He was unable to keep that positive momentum going, and over the course of the rest of his tenure in Oakland, he got progressively worse and worse. In 2001, he hit .283/.335/.412 in 162 games with 12 home runs and 9 stolen bases; in 2002, he hit .240/.298/.390 in 162 games with 16 home runs and 3 stolen bases; in 2003 he hit .245/.293/.385 in 140 games with 14 home runs and 4 stolen bases. That winter, Oakland traded Long, along with catcher Ramon Hernandez, to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Mark Kotsay. All in all, over four full seasons with the A’s, the outfielder hit .265/.317/.411 with 60 home run and 21 stolen bases.
Used in a more limited role as a righty-masher, Long regained some of his mojo. The 28-year-old hit .295/.335/.420 with 3 home runs and 3 stolen bases. The Padres capitalized on his success by trading him that winter, along with Dennis Tankersley and cash, to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Ryan Bukvich and Darrell May. Kansas City used Long in similar role and he hit .279/.321/.378 with 6 home runs and 3 stolen bases.
A free agent after the 2005 season, Long had difficulty finding work. In late March, he was finally signed by the Cincinnati Reds, a minor league deal that sent him to their Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats. He appeared in 15 games with them before being released by the team. Roughly a week later, he was signed by the Yankees, who needed a replacement for Hideki Matsui, who injured his wrist. Long was promoted to the Yankees and appeared in 12 games for them, hitting .167/.250/.194. He was sent down to the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees’ Triple-A team, in early June and spent the rest of the season there, hitting .277/.329/.450 in 69 games. A free agent once again after the season ended, Long was unable to sign with a team and eventually retired.
In 2011, Long was portrayed by Marvin Horn in Moneyball. “Whenever I see Billy, I joke with him about that. I saw him in the movie more than in my career with Oakland. No doubt, that was a special year,” Long once jokingly told Brandon Inge.
In 2019, his oldest son, Jalon, began college at Samford University. A right-handed pitcher, Jalon posted a 4.50 ERA in 32.0 innings for the Bulldogs as both a starter and a reliever in his freshman year, and a 5.60 ERA in 17.2 innings as a starter in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. His youngest son, Kyrin, is due to graduate from Autauga Academy in 2021, and like his father and brother, is also a ballplayer and is currently planning on attending Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.
All in all, Terrence Long went on to have a respectable MLB career. While he never developed into the 30-30 type player that some scouts thought he could be early in his career, he became a solid complementary player for an Oakland Athletics team that won 100 games twice and made the playoffs four seasons in a row. He was extremely durable, playing in 162 games in back-to-back seasons and was able to contribute to the teams he played on in multiple ways with his ability to hit, hit for power, and run the bases.
In the end, Long had a baseball career that will immortalized in baseball lore- though perhaps for the wrong reason.