By Stephanie Dolan
A great athlete is many things. Sure, he – or she – plays their game to the best of their ability. But there’s more to it. Athletes are often revered. People look up to them. They’re role models. So being a great athlete means not just playing a great game but being the kind of person that others aspire to be as well.
Locally, one of these great athletes is 17-year-old Southport High School senior, Avery Short.
“He’s a potential draft pick, a wonderful young man and a very good team player,” Southport High School Baseball Coach Phil Webster said. “I don’t think you could ask for a better role model. He’s a hard worker and a real credit to the community and to his parents. He’s the commensurate kind of player you want to coach. He’s very good with the younger players.”
Until recently, Webster was coaching for a different school.
“We’ve played him, so I know how tough he is,” he said. “Being a first-year coach coming into the program, Avery and several other seniors were very gracious in making me feel needed. He helped me a lot with the other players along with the other seniors. He has every right to be cocky and arrogant, but that’s not the way he is. Everyone seems to look up to him. He’s a great young man.”
“It’s obvious that he is very talented,” Southport High School Assistant Athletic Director Brian Murphy said. “But what makes him even better is that he’s always in command. He’s in command of his pitches and of himself in the sense that he never gets rattled when things aren’t going well and that makes him even more effective.”
“Avery is a great teammate,” Team Indiana Coach Phil Wade said. “He’s mature for his age. Generally, the age we take for Team Indiana is seniors. We took him as a junior because of his maturity and his ability to pitch at a high level. He fit right in and was one of the top players on the team. We put him in our biggest games as a starter. He did really well and was really successful. He’s one of the best pitchers not just in Indiana, but in the Midwest and across the country.”
Going for the Gold
Recently, Short – a left-handed pitcher – competed in the Pan American Games, winning gold along with the rest of his team.
“It was awesome,” Short said. “We played really well in Panama. We beat everyone in Panama by a lot except for our first game against Panama, who we beat by one.”
Short’s mom and stepdad, Amanda and Scott Bryan, accompanied Short down to Panama.
“The baseball part was fantastic,” Amanda said. “But you get a whole new perspective. It’s Central America, and it’s not what we’re used to here. But the boys were well taken care of, and the staff that is with USA Baseball, they go above and beyond to take care of the boys and make sure they have what they need, that they’re well rested and fed well.”
“And that they’re protected,” Scott added.
“Yes, and protected,” Amanda chimed in. “They had security guards with them at all times. It’s not the United States. I think we kind of take that for granted – that everything is the same as where we are in our own little world. And it’s definitely different. Surreal for sure.”
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Team USA,” Short said.
Short’s journey to Panama began in Florida at an invitation-only team tryout called Tournament of Stars.
“It started out with 84 kids, and we split up into four teams,” Short said. “You play games against other teams, and that’s how they do the tryout. They like to see how guys perform in game. Right after that they cut it down to 40 kids, and then we played the college national team.”
“If it was an Olympic year,” Scott said. “That would have been the Olympic team that they played against.”
Short was excited to announce that his team won that game.
“I started that game, which is awesome,” he said. “That was technically the first two parts of the tryout, and then they just watched to see how we kept progressing. They invited the final 28 kids for training for a week in Ft. Lauderdale. And then they cut it down to the final 20 just before Thanksgiving.”
How has all this experience affected Short?
“I think the biggest thing for me is that it’s helped me grow into the leader I am now,” he said. “I’ve always been one of the top players on the team, and people have always looked up to me. So I’ve had to become a more vocal leader, which I wasn’t really growing up, so I kind of just stepped up into that leadership role.”
And Short’s family couldn’t be more proud of him, not just for his sporting abilities, but for the man he’s growing into.
“We’re obviously proud of him for baseball,” Amanda said. “But he’s my son, and I’m more proud of him for being a leader and being a good kid and being a part of our family. I think he’s a great baseball player, and he’s going to do well and hopefully fulfill his dreams in that respect.”
“The baseball is great, and if it works out that’s fabulous,” Scott said. “But being a productive citizen and being able to take care of himself and his family is just as important.”
“When I get comments about him being a great kid that means as much to me as the baseball stuff,” Amanda said.
For now, Short is settling back into the rhythm of school, friends, homework and baseball practice. He’s also entertaining the idea of signing onto a team roster should he be chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft in June. If not, he plans to go to the University of Louisville and revisit the idea of being a professional ball player during his junior year.
“He’s just a good kid,” Murphy said. “He’s a good teammate. He’s just good as advertised.”
Learn more about Southport High School baseball at southportcardinals.org.