Kingston High School Class of 2013 alum Zack Short made his major league baseball debut with the Detroit Tigers last week, playing both third and second base over his first two games and earning his first ever hit.
Short impressed the Tigers in spring training this year, earning a spot on the team’s taxi squad in Toledo, Ohio, a setup devised by MLB last year when Covid-19 torpedoed the minor league season. While the minors are back in action in 2021, the taxi squad remains, with major league teams allowed to keep up to five players on an alternate training site for road games. Short was brought up to the active roster on Wednesday, April 21 when infielder Renato Núñez was designated for assignment, and he hopes to stick with the Tigers at their top level, where already feels like he belongs.
“The guys in the clubhouse just make it so easy to be around,” said Short. “I’ve only been here for a few months, obviously with the team, and it just felt like in spring training, right off the bat, they welcomed me with open arms.”
Short hit .263 in spring training for the Tigers, smacking three doubles and one home run. He also connected with his new teammates off the field, particularly on golf courses near the team’s home diamond, Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.
“We played a bunch of golf together and it was awesome,” Short said. “You play a round of golf with somebody, you know a lot about them after the round. Those are some of the guys I’m closest with right now and it’s just all from golf. And the locker room, it’s just such a good spot to be with a group of guys. And that’s what makes it so frustrating that we’re not winning right now.”
After a 4-0 home loss against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, April 25, the Tigers are 7-15 and at the bottom of the American League Central. But it’s early yet, and Short hopes he can help the team turn its fortunes around this season.
Short’s first major league at-bat came in the third inning of the first game of a double-header against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park in Detroit. Short went down 0-2 in the count against pitcher Tyler Anderson before earning a walk eight pitches in. Short, who has a keen eye at the plate, walked again in the fifth inning.
“I’ve had a lot of long at bats,” Short said of the kind of battle that can wear a pitcher out. “It just felt like every at bat just kind of dragging in a good way.”
In his major league debut, Short also played well at third, especially on a defensive shift against left-handed Pirate Colin Moran; Short, alone on the left side of the field, made a spectacular diving stop on what looked like a certain opposite field RBI hit, throwing Moran out at first.
In a press conference after the 5-2 loss, Detroit manager A.J. Hinch expressed enthusiasm for Short.
“He’s got a lot of baseball skills and we saw a little bit of that today,” Hinch said, “Watching him at third base making a couple of major-league quality plays as a first-time major leaguer and then some solid at-bats. I was happy for his day. He put up one of the brighter spots of the day.”
After playing college ball for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, Short was picked by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 2016 draft. He impressed enough in the minors to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2019 season, but was not offered an invitation to the team’s taxi squad in 2020. He was traded to Detroit for pitcher Cameron Maybin on August 31, 2020.
Short said he understands that his journey to the big show took a relatively short amount of time, but with injuries and various stops along the way, it didn’t feel like that.
“When I was in AAA in ’19, I got off to a good start and then was halted by the broken hand,” Short said. “I really felt that that was going to be the year, but it’s tough to get ahead of yourself like that. Because something can change at an instant, as it did. And then, you know, last year kind of sucked and it’s like you almost feel like it’s never going to happen. And it’s funny, I’m saying this that and I’m 25, but felt was like forever, you know? But I’m really, really fortunate and thankful that it finally came.”
Short’s first hit in the majors came on Friday, April 23 when he singled off Royals starter Mike Minor. His parents, who’d flown in for his debut two days earlier, were in the stands. It meant the world to Short they’d made it for his first-ever major league game, especially as he credits them with helping him achieve his dream of playing baseball.
“They’ve put in so much more time than I have, just from me growing up, taking me to make sure I had all the gear, all the rides, everything,” he said. “I did the easy part getting here. They did all the hard stuff, making sure that I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Short credits his mother with inspiring him to try and play infield at Kingston High.
“I was playing outfield in high school until sophomore year where my mom was like, ‘I think you can get back into the infield, there’s a spot there.’ And it kind of just took off from there. And if it wasn’t for her, I’d probably still be in the outfield or not playing for anyone. I’m very fortunate to have such a close-knit family. It’s meant the world.”
Short has fond memories of his time playing baseball for the Kingston Tigers, and he’s still best friends with Pat Dorrian, a third baseman for the Norfolk Tides, an AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
“We’ve shared so much time together in high school and then the offseason,” Short said. “And we talk about it all the time. Whether it’s basketball or baseball, we had such a close-knit team (at Kingston High) and it makes you want to have that again. So you try so hard to be close with your teammates, because it makes it that much more enjoyable. It’s a blast when you’re winning, and obviously losing sucks, but it makes it a lot easier when you have a bunch of good guys in your.”
Short said he’s wanted to play baseball for as long as he can remember.
“That’s literally all I wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve had these dreams literally since, it sounds cliche, but since I could walk. I’ve always had a bat or a ball in my hand, just running around the yard, watching games. It’s something I love and, for it to happen with my family here, it’s just a storybook kind of thing. I’m just very fortunate to have such a close knit family, people to share it with. It’s awesome.”