Kingston High School senior Avery Short signed a National Letter of Intent last week to play baseball for Siena College next year. The star pitcher joined two of his battery mates in pledging to play for NCAA Division I schools, and he also hopes to follow in his big brother’s footsteps.
“Just seeing the success my brother has had also kind of motivated me to work harder,” said Avery Short of his brother Zack, who was wrapping up his junior season as an infielder at Sacred Heart last June when he was drafted in the 17th round by the eventual World Series champion, the Chicago Cubs.
Short will attend Siena’s School of Business, and he hopes to eventually become a stockbroker. But first things first: Baseball, which is clearly a family business of its own.
“My dad was a pitcher when he played baseball, and just to have him working with me was helpful,” said Short, who discovered after making the jump from tee-ball to Little League that he wanted to be a pitcher.
“That’s where I realized pitching is fun, and I want to do this all the time,” Short said. “I like to be in control and keep the tempo of the game up. I like to be involved and move around a lot, I guess you could say.”
Short’s first and best pitch was the curveball, which moves around a lot. But while a curveball may confound hitters, it’s on the mound where Short said he can best control the flow of the game.
“I’ve always had a good curveball, so the curveball was always my pitch,” he said. “It was hard for other kids to hit as such a young level, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess I’m pretty good at this.’ Just being out there and having all eyes on you. And if you’re on the mound and throwing well it kind of motivates your guys to back you up and make the plays. Being the leader was kind of what I liked to do. And that’s why I like to pitch.”
Short’s junior year with the Tigers was nothing short of stellar. He helped lead the team to a Section IX, Class AA title, finishing the season with a 6-1 record and a 0.39 earned run average. Over 53.1 innings, Short allowed just six runs, only half of which were earned, and 26 hits. Short walked just eight batters, while striking out 55; opponents combined for a .138 batting average against him in 2016.
But it was while playing for the Taconic Rangers travel team that Siena and other colleges began paying close attention. In addition to the deal he accepted, Short also received offers from Manhattan and Sacred Heart.
“They kind of came after me and were very interested,” Short said of the Loudonville college. “The school is beautiful, the baseball team is awesome, they had the major I wanted, and it was just a great fit for me.”
Short added that he feels he was able to put his best foot forward in a showcase league because of lessons learned in a team context.
“In high school you play to win, but what our coach liked to do when you play travel ball is you play for yourself, basically,” Short said of the difference between high school and showcase travel ball. “You play to have coaches want you to play on their team.”
Short joined fellow Tiger hurlers Jeffrey Hayner and Tyler Kelder in signing with Division I schools. Hayner will pitch for Niagara University, also in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), so the pair will see one another on the diamond each season. Kelder will play for St. Bonaventure, which could also lead to future battles between the current Kingston teammates.
Short’s senior season with the Tigers remains his primary focus. His varsity story began as a freshman call-up during the playoffs.
“It was exciting and nerve-wracking,” Short said. “The first game we played was against Arlington High School, and my brother played against one of the kids on Arlington and he wound up going to Michigan, and his name was Drew Lugbauer. So when he got up to the plate, him and I kind of laughed at each other and thought, ‘OK, this is big time.’ After the first game against Arlington I kind of settled down and was like, ‘Alright, if I just throw my pitches, Coach [Mike] Groppuso knows what he’s doing so I’ll be okay.’”
He was OK, in part because freshman year was when he took his love of pitching a lot more seriously and began studying the game.
“I became more of a pitcher than a thrower, when I started hitting my spots,” Short said. “Not trying to throw it as hard as you can and blow it by everybody, but to actually pinpoint location and get guys to ground out and fly out.”
Baseball in the Northeast isn’t a year-round endeavor like it might be in other parts of the country where the weather is more agreeable. On the other hand, Short said, not being able to step onto a baseball field lets he and his teammates develop as athletes in other ways.
“We lift in the winter, which I love,” he said. “It gets everybody stronger, and it also brings kind of the team bonding and chemistry together, which is also good. We’re all grinding our asses from the beginning of the fall all the way to the beginning of the spring just lifting. It kind of motivates you to see, ‘This guy is working hard, this guy is working hard, I should work hard also.’”
Short said he’s not planning on resting on his laurels after his junior year, and is taking the advice of Kingston’s varsity coach in adding another weapon to his pitching arsenal.
“Coach Groppuso and I really want to work on my changeup,” Short said. “He said my fastball and curveball have been effective for me, but if I mix in that third pitch, I’ll be more effective than I have been before. And coach is right. I need a third pitch. The man is not wrong very often.”
As for his ultimate goal in his senior season, Short said winning the school’s first state championship since 2012 would be a nice way to round off his high school career. And his teammates are also up for the challenge.
“I think we all just want to win our last high school baseball game,” he said. “That’s the goal. That’s the dream. Even to get that far would be an accomplishment we would all love.”