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Sports

Cougars: Former Larkin star Rick Short glad to be back 'home'

Kane County hitting coach spent 12 seasons in minors, five in Japan, had 15 at-bats with Nationals

Rick Short
Rick Short

GENEVA – Rick Short leaned against a wall outside the Cougars clubhouse, relaxed and at ease.

It's good to be home.

Short is at least close to it.

A prep star at Larkin in the late 1980s before a lengthy minor league career, cup of coffee in the majors and two stints in Japan, Short is back in the Fox Valley as the Cougars hitting coach.

It's a great fit for Short, 45, who now resides in Peoria with his wife Karyn and their children.

"It's perfect for the family, a couple hours away," said Short, who admitted he hasn't been back to the area much until now. "I still have a sister in the area. My parents moved away, but I still have high school friends here. It will be fun. I'm looking forward to it."

Short and the Cougars had their first series postponed because of inclement weather Thursday and Friday. They'll now open Saturday night in Clinton, with their next home game April 13 against Beloit.

Short was a scout for seven years in the Diamondbacks organization after retiring in 2009 from the Tohohu Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League.

He yearned to return to the field, and did so as an assistant coach last year for Missoula in the short-season Pioneer League.

"I was waiting for the itch to go away and it never did," Short said. "I approached the Diamondbacks and they were kind enough to have something and it worked out."

Rookie Cougars manager Blake Lalli is glad to have Short on his first staff.

"He's great," Lalli said. "I got to spend some time with him in the fall and all spring. We pretty much go to dinner every night, talk baseball and more baseball. The guys really take to him. He has a lot of knowledge and he had a heck of a career himself."

Indeed he did, hopscotching over two continents.

Short, an Elgin Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was a 33rd-round pick by the Orioles in 1994 out of Western Illinois.

He played 12 seasons in the minors with the Orioles, Cubs, Angels and Royals, hitting .317, and .314 in five seasons in Japan.

Short got his call to the bigs in 2005 with the Nationals at age 32, singling in a run in his first at-bat. He had 15 total at bats before a shoulder injury cut short his season, with two homers – one off Dontrelle Willis.

He knows every player and fan is quick to parse a prospect's statistics, but that's not what consumes him.

"Everybody is looking at their numbers and everybody in their hometown is looking at their numbers, but for us it's process over results," Short said. "The best way I've heard it is the minor leagues is a report-driven industry. If you go 0-for-4 but the reports are good, your approach is good, that's what we want. I tell them 0-for-4, good contact, good approach, that's going to the front office."

Hitting coach philosophies can be tricky, and get more complex at every rung up the organizational ladder.

Short keeps things simple.

"Around here it's getting their pitch as much as possible, to be on time, and to execute their swings," Short said. "We are going to emphasize zone control. That's a huge philosophy, is we want them to get their pitch."

It will be spotty with kids just getting their feet wet in the pros, and Short has seen enough games at this level to know that guys will chase the breaking ball.

It's all a part of being a teacher.

"It's saying one thing and repeating it over and over again, hammering it home," Short said. "Obviously I want guys to use all fields and be a total hitter. We're not trying to chase numbers. I want these guys to find the barrel as much as possible, and with that comes confidence and comes a good hitter."

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