For Short, a Long Time Coming
Friday, June 10, 2005
The Short family converged on RFK Stadium yesterday from places near and far, the journey they had all been waiting for. Mom and Dad drove all night from Rockford, Ill. Karyn and the kids flew in from New Orleans. Friends trickled in from all the little Maryland and West Virginia hamlets -- Bowie, Frederick, Bluefield -- where Rick Short had spent all those years waiting for the moment that finally came yesterday, 11 years after his own journey had begun.
What does it feel like to make it the majors for the first time in your 12th professional season, after 1,106 minor league games? To have achieved a lifelong goal, at age 32, in what might have been your final chance? To have validated all the years you spent on buses and in cheap hotels, and all the moves you put your family through?
"Actually," Short said yesterday afternoon in the Washington Nationals' clubhouse, hours before the team's game against the Oakland Athletics, "it's kind of a relief."
One might have thought the actual moment of knowledge -- the instant when Short received the news he had been waiting all those years to hear -- would have been more poignant, more cinematic, than the way it actually came down: via a phone call at 5 p.m. Wednesday from Tim Foli, Short's manager at Class AAA New Orleans, who was playing golf at the time. "Shorty," Foli's voice was saying over the phone, "you're going to the big leagues." And that was it.
"It's funny," said Karyn Short, Rick's wife. "You wait 12 years to get that call. You imagine how it will be. And then when it comes, you don't know how to act. [Rick] told me, and it was like, 'Oh, my God.' "
What came next was not tears, but adrenaline. There were flights to book, bags to pack, phone calls -- the ones he had practiced in his head many times -- to make.
"He was so calm about it," said Pat Short, Rick's mother, recounting the phone call from her son. "At first I thought he was joking, but then I knew he wasn't. He said he had waited his whole life for this."
The tears would come later, in bed, after the Shorts's children, 5 and 2, had gone to sleep, and before the 3:30 a.m. wake-up call for Rick's flight to Washington.
"That's when it hit us," Karyn said. "It was emotional, for both of us. I've been with him since he got drafted [in 1994]. It had become my dream, along with his."
That dream had been on life support for the last few years. Short had been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of Western Illinois University in the 33rd round, and had proved himself to be a fine hitter at every level of the minor leagues. He carries a career batting average of .313 in the minors.
He won a batting title (hitting .319) at Class A Frederick in 1997, and the next year he was back at Frederick. He won another batting title (.356) in 2002 for the Anaheim Angels' Class AAA affiliate in Salt Lake City, but it was the year the Angels won the World Series -- something they accomplished largely by staying healthy.
"I figured, if I couldn't get there with that [performance]," he said, "I was never going to get there. I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."