Baseball: Opponents in the GSL, CV’s Parker Smith, U-Hi’s Ricco Longo to become teammates at Gonzaga
Thu., March 31, 2022
University infielder Ricco Longo leads off third base against host Ferris on Tuesday Mar 29, 2022. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
Over the past two decades, Gonzaga has steadily improved its baseball program to the point where it attracts – and produces – potential professional players on a regular basis.
Each season, it seems, the Zags have a player or two selected in the MLB draft as the program gets more national exposure and attention.
So it makes sense that top area high school players would consider the program to get their name on the radar, and that the Zags would want to use its hometown advantage when recruiting.
That’s exactly what happened this year, as two of the top players in the league – Central Valley right-handed pitcher Parker Smith and University shortstop Ricco Longo – signed with the Zags to continue their baseball and educational careers.
Both players are beyond excited to play college ball in their hometown.
“I get to stay close to my family and just be around the people I love,” Longo said. “The coaching is great there and I just think it’s a great program.”
“I’ve grown up in Spokane my whole life,” Smith said. “I’ve got a good relationship with the coaches. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Smith acknowledges that younger players will be watching him and Longo with the Zags.
“It’s cool to be the hometown kid and go to Gonzaga,” he said. “But I don’t treat anyone else differently. Nobody puts me on a pedestal. I’m just a humble guy. I just try to have fun with all my teammates and all my high school friends while I’m here.”
“He’s a leader,” CV first-year coach Beau Kerns said of Smith. “He’s been a soundboard for a lot of the things that, when teammates go, ‘I might have a question on this,’ He’s able to kind of communicate that with guys. So he’s been a good leader, which is good to see.”
While the players wouldn’t admit it, the coaches know how big a deal this is.
“The fact that (Longo) gets an opportunity to play at a Division I program like Gonzaga right here at home, we’re all really proud of him and we were all looking forward to watching his continued growth just down the street,” U-Hi coach Kevin May said.
“I mean, anytime that happens, especially local talent is able to go and stay home? That’s obviously a tip of the cap to them,” Kerns said. “That’s really good for the young guys coming up. They’re able to see ‘Oh, shoot. Yeah, they are taking guys from Spokane.’ ”
In previous seasons, Longo has played all over the diamond. This season he’ll settle in at shortstop and hit No. 3 in the lineup – and pitch on occasion.
“You know, I just do whatever coach needs, whatever is best for the team,” Longo said. “I’ll be there and I’ll do the best I can.”
Longo’s not sure where he’ll play at Gonzaga.
“We’ll keep working on shortstop and once we get there just got to keep putting the work in to see what happens,” he said.
Smith knows he’ll stay on the mound for the Zags. He throws three pitches – fastball, slider and change-up – all for strikes and with good movement. But he does have one goal left in high school.
“I mean, I’d love to hit a home run. I haven’t hit a home run in my high school career.”
“His demeanor and everything that I’ve seen so far on the mound, it’s positive,” Kerns said of Smith. “There’s a toughness about him for sure. It’s just being able to build on top of that for him to really take him to the next level.”
The two players have faced each other several times in league play. The schools being traditional rivals adds fuel to the fire – but it’s a friendly competition.
The involved parties agree that so far, Longo has had a slight advantage in the head-to-head matchup.
“Ricco, I think he’s had a pretty good run against Parker,” May said. “So yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to playing CV. We always look forward to that game. It’s fun to see two good competitors who excel at a high level face off against one another.”
“I mean, it’s partially true,” Smith said. “We go back and forth. But he’s right, he’s had my number at times.”
“I love the kid,” Longo said of Smith. “We’re great competitors, we go back and forth. But yeah, he’s a great pitcher.”
May describes Longo as one of the hardest workers he’s been around.
“He’s a leader on the field. He’s a leader off the field,” May said. “Just the way he goes about his business. He’s first at practice everyday, last to leave. Just really kind of an extension of the coaching staff.”
“I just think it starts when you’re little, when you’re young,” Longo said. “Always be humble, know where you come from. My father always taught me: Be humble and work hard.”
Longo has two brothers following him at U-Hi, and he’s trying to be a good role model for them.
“I hope they look up to me, but you know, I’m just there to help them be better and help them work hard.”
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