South Elgin native, assistant Diamondbacks hitting coach talks World Series

Elgin native, assistant hitting coach for Diamondbacks talks World Series

Every little boy who ever touched a baseball has dreamed of playing in the World Series.

Rick Short didn't get that opportunity during his playing career, but as an assistant hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Short was able to live that dream this past season.

Short, a 1991 graduate of Larkin High School in Elgin and a South Elgin native, was promoted to the majors in June 2021 when Arizona fired its two hitting coaches due to the team's poor performance.

Originally a 33rd round draft pick of Baltimore out of Western Illinois, Short made a long climb through the minors until finally making his major league debut in 2005 at age 32 for the Washington Nationals. He hit 2 home runs in 11 games for the Nats.

Short spent 2001 as a minor-leaguer for the Cubs. He finished his playing career with four years in Japan, then started with the Diamondbacks as an area scout in 2010.

As a hitting coach, Short has moved up the ladder from rookie league Missoula, to the Kane County Cougars in 2018, and Double A Jackson (Miss.) in 2019-20.

Now firmly entrenched with Arizona, Short recently signed a 2-year extension with the Diamondbacks.

We caught up with Short after the World Series and asked him about the experience, among other things.

Q: Tell us about the experience of being a coach on a team that played in the World Series.

A: It was definitely a magical run for a group that wasn't on many people's radar. Internally, we believed that we were improved, but for the group to take the next step and come together set up the run that we made. We had a nice mix of young talent that was surrounded by solid veteran leadership and performance. To see that mix come together and connect was a huge part of our success. It's the template that we envisioned for our group, but that being said, you still need the guys to come together as a group and get the performances that we knew they were capable of. There are so many ebbs and flows to a baseball season that will certainly test teams, but to be one of two teams standing at the end was an amazing accomplishment. Once we clinched a wild card spot, it brought about an entirely new set of environments that was new for a lot of our young players. To go into playoff environments on the road in places like Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Texas was a huge test for our group. To their credit, they overcame the odds. They believed they could win and stunned a lot of people. You can't help but sit back and just be so happy for the players, staff and front office.

Q: Despite the final outcome, you have to be awfully proud of what the D-Backs have accomplished since you were elevated to the major league level in 2021. Tell us a couple of the reasons behind Arizona going from 100-plus losses to the WS in such a short time.

A: Our entire organization did an incredible job to make that leap. We knew our system had some up-and-coming prospects that were capable of being impact players at some point. Like I said, we went out and surrounded those guys with solid veteran experience. The acquisitions of Lourdes Gurriel, Evan Longoria and Tommy Pham gave our lineup an incredible boost. On top of that, the front office solidified the bullpen with pieces that were capable of locking down leads and preserve solid starts from our starting rotation. I feel like our lineup lacked identity in the past, and with our young prospects, we grew into a team that could attack opponents in ways we couldn't have in the past. We built our lineup on speed and pressure that was surrounded by enough power to create offense. It was an exciting offense that reminded a lot of people of what baseball looked like 20-25 years ago We didn't have the power that other lineups relied on, but when we would get our speed guys on base, it created chaos that was refreshing and exciting. We stole bases, moved runners situationally and built a lot of innings that put pressure on opposing pitchers. Adapting that identity, growing into it as a group and executing it consistently, helped us wear teams down and compete with the larger payroll teams.

Q: Now that you've been coaching at the MLB level for a couple of years, what are some of the challenges you face in dealing with MLB players?

A: Some of the bigger challenges that come to mind are helping the younger players to establish themselves at the major league level and build their identities to be impact players based around their strengths. The gap between AAA and the major leagues is pretty significant. Not so much on the talent side of things, but the preparation, game-planning and execution are all new experiences for guys that are trying to break in. For example, a guy that is hitting third or fourth in a AAA lineup and is expected to be a run-producer in that lineup, might get called up and hit seventh or eighth. Those expectations are different. They might be asked to move a runner over or take pitches and work an at-bat. The margins for winning and losing a major league game are so thin, and sometimes young players aren't aware of that. On top of that, pitchers at the major league level are so polished at executing a game plan. The information and scouting are so detailed that hitters' strengths and weaknesses are quickly revealed. Once they get to know you as a hitter, they're relentless at exploiting a young hitter's weaknesses. To combat this, it's constant education and conversations. The performances of young players are volatile and you have to know that going in. You have to pick your coaching moments wisely and be consistent in order to not overwhelm them.

Q: A lot of people "back home" continue to follow you, your career, and encourage you. That has to feel pretty special.

A: The support and outreach from back home was amazing. It's always fun to come back home when we play the Chicago teams and catch up with people, but being in Arizona, in a different time zone, people don't always get a chance to watch our games. To be on the national stage and have people get a chance to watch our talented group was special.

Q: What are your professional goals for the future?

A: I am so lucky to do what I love to do. Working with major league players and developing talent is a true passion. It's the next best thing to being a player. You're helping people chase and realize their dreams, and there's amazing satisfaction that comes with that. There are certainly challenges that come with that, but there's also a level a gratitude that's hard to describe. As a coach, you're living through the high and low points with the players and their families. That being said, there's a toll that comes with that. The sacrifice of being away from home and missing family time can be exhausting. As a player, you stress about your individual performance, but as a coach you're living this roller coaster ride with an entire organization of players. It's a selfless job that requires giving everything you have to other people. But like I said, the level of gratitude, satisfaction and challenges are a true passion. I truly enjoy player development, so for now, I embrace the grind. I signed a two-year extension to remain with Arizona and I am thrilled to be with this group I feel like our future is bright and we've raised the bar in or organization. Our expectations have changed, which is a new and exciting challenge ahead. For now, I will embrace this new standard to help the Diamondbacks build what we have all worked so hard to become.

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