Take a look at Myrtle Beach Pelicans shortstop Zack Short and you'll notice he almost always has a smile on his face when he's on the field. He certainly has plenty of reasons to smile. The 22-year-old had an outstanding run in South Bend during his first full year of professional baseball, and hasn’t seemed to lose steam since being promoted to Myrtle Beach at the end of June.
Short was drafted by the Cubs in the 17th round of the 2016 draft out of Sacred Heart University. He put together a modest season with short-season Eugene in 2016 but has really started to stand out this year with his success in South Bend and now Myrtle Beach.
“I think it’s definitely been a learning experience,” the Kingston, New York native said of his 2017 season, thus far. He was pleased with his hot start in May and June. Short saw his batting average climb as high as .288 and his on-base percentage reach up to .439, but described the month of June as a “nightmare” as he began to cool off.
Short was surprised when he was promoted to Myrtle Beach at the end of June, but quickly adjusted to the higher playing level. With the sudden departure of the Pelicans regular leadoff man Bryant Flete to the trade with the White Sox, Short was the perfect replacement to bat first.
Part of Short’s success may be partly due to finding a good spot for him in the lineup: leadoff. The shortstop had never been the leadoff hitter until South Bend manager Jimmy Gonzalez put him in the number one spot the third game of the season. “You just stay with the same approach,” Short said of the adjustment. “You’re getting on base and I think the more you get on base for the guys behind you, the better off your team is going to be.”
With the Pelicans having a less than stellar second half, Short has helped generate some much-needed offense for his team. In just 38 games with Myrtle Beach, he has 40 hits, 21 walks and four homers, and is currently posting a .381 on-base percentage.
While batting leadoff may be new to Short, playing different positions around the infield is not. “I love [the versatility] because it gives you more opportunities to play almost everyday,” said Short. He rotated between second base, shortstop and third base in South Bend, but has only played shortstop in Myrtle Beach. “[The club] values versatility, so I have to work on every position everyday you’re in BP. In South Bend, I was taking reps everyday; Jimmy [Gonzalez] and [Jonathan] Mota were huge on that, so it’s gone a long way.”
As we enter the final weeks of the regular season, Short looks back fondly on his year. “My parents said it’s a privilege to play the game; you’re a man playing a kid’s game. I can’t be mad—even if I go 0-4, you’re still playing baseball. You’re not at a desk doing whatever, so you just try to have fun and hopefully the game takes care of you.”