Growing up, just about every little boy wants to be just like their dad. They are usually in their father’s shadow. They walk the way he walks, they talk the way he talks. Even down to individual mannerisms their dad may have. Every son wants to follow in the fathers’ footsteps.
In Johnson County, it’s no different for Johnson Central’s Blake Delong and his dad, Craig Delong.
It’s something to be celebrated if someone from our area gets to play a sport at the collegiate level. But for father and son to both have the opportunity, is really a rarity. Craig Delong, who, also played at Johnson Central was able to further his career at then Pikeville College, now, the University of Pikeville.
“Going into college, I wasn’t a very big guy,” Craig Delong said. “When I left here, I had only hit one home run in high school. But I got on a weight program and it’s like a job, but if you work hard, good things will come.”
The elder Delong played the hot-corner, third base for the Bears under former baseball coach Wayne Albury.
Craig Delong also coached his son from the time he was about six years of age. He felt it was important to teach Blake Delong how to play every position on the field, that way he could fill in wherever he might be needed.
Blake Delong is left-handed and was Johnson Central’s starting first baseman. Being a true lefty at first is very rare these days in and of itself.
Craig Delong coached Blake Delong through Cal Ripken League baseball, all the way up to middle school. Baseball has allowed the pair to travel the country together, dad getting to watch his son play the game they both love so much.
When Blake reached the high school level, Craig Delong stepped away from the coaching role, but he left his son in good hands, with Johnson Central head coach Shawn Hall. Craig Delong was actually on Hall’s first staff as junior varsity coach. He credits coach Hall with teaching him a lot about the game.
“I’ve learned so much from him (Hall),” Craig Delong said. “A lot of what he did on the field and in the dugout, I took with me wherever we went. A lot of the respect and love for the game, I got from him.”
After a couple of years, he stepped away as Blake Delong came into his own.
That hard work and love for the game that Craig Delong instilled in Blake Delong has paid off.
In May, Blake Delong signed his national letter of intent to continue his academic and baseball career at Eastern Kentucky University, in Richmond. For a father, that had to be one of the proudest moments. The elder Delong had this advice for his son heading to EKU, “Just play every game like it’s your last because it could be,” Craig Delong said.
Blake Delong had a very successful senior campaign for the Golden Eagles. On senior night in particular, he blasted two home runs in the same inning against Prestonsburg. In the bottom of the first he belted a three run homer. As Johnson Central batted around, he came up again and blasted a grand slam to give him seven RBI’s in one inning.
“It was really special, I grew up with everybody here,” Blake Delong said. “It feels awesome that I could finish it with them. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys, I love them all to death. We had a great season, but we should have done more.”
The younger Delong spoke about having his father as a coach and how it was tough at times. “It was hard growing up and him being my coach,” Blake Delong said. “He pushed me more than anybody else. I was always the one getting the hardest stuff to do. He was tough.”
As we closed the interview, I asked the new EKU Colonel if he had a message for Father’s Day. He turned to his dad and placed his arm around him and told him, “I love you,” to which his father replied, “There’s nothing better than that.”