Short makes Mets' roster on emotional day

March 24th, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- woke up Sunday morning and learned that his grandmother had died, her passing peaceful but impactful in all the obvious ways. As Short relayed the news hours later on the Mets’ dugout bench, his eyes grew red. He dropped his head for a moment to collect himself.

When Short arrived at Clover Park, he was summoned into a back office, where Mets officials informed him he had made the team. A long-shot roster hopeful entering camp, Short impressed the club all spring with his defensive versatility and improved plate approach. Two months shy of his 29th birthday, he will be on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career.

“It’s something bigger than me, that’s for sure,” Short said.

That same morning, Short’s fiancée texted the family group chat to say she was making good time on her drive back from Connecticut to Florida. Emotions were still raw in there, as everyone had spent the previous hours celebrating Short’s grandmother’s life. His fiancée said she might be able to make the end of his little brother’s college baseball game. Most of the family would be in attendance.

“I won’t be there,” Short replied, attaching an image of Citi Field to the chat, “but I know where I’ll be on Opening Day.”

A Mets fan growing up in the Hudson Valley, Short frequently attended Yankees games with his mother, who -- unlike his father -- was home daily in the summer. But dad won out in the end; Short became a Mets fan regardless, counting David Wright and Edgardo Alfonzo among his favorite players. He attended a 2000 World Series game and, for reasons he can no longer fathom, requested to sit in the upper deck. From that vantage, Short recalls marveling at the sight of Shea Stadium.

Now, he will have his chance to play at Citi Field, where he never appeared during parts of three seasons with the Tigers. A utility infielder who impressed Mets evaluators with his glove this spring, Short also managed to do more than expected with the bat, slashing .303/.410/.485 with a grand slam over his first 15 Grapefruit League games. He credits the results, in large part, to a swing modification he was already making when the Mets claimed him off waivers early this offseason.

“I kind of figured there would be change coming in my career with the Tigers,” he said. “It was a look-in-the-mirror type of situation where it’s like you can kind of keep going down this path, fighting for your life every day, or you can try to switch something and if you’re going to go down, you can at least go down with a fight.”

When the Mets subsequently signed Joey Wendle, a veteran infielder who features many of the same strengths that Short does, he assumed he’d be back on the wire before long. The call never came. Throughout camp, Short understood the extent to which the odds were stacked against him. As recently as last week, he and Wendle shared some gallows humor about the situation during a car ride to a game in Jupiter, Fla. Scouts from other teams began sniffing around Short, wondering if the Mets might cut him loose.

They did not. Sunday morning, team officials informed Mark Vientos and Ji Man Choi that they would not be making the Opening Day roster, which cleared the last remaining obstacles between Short and a job. The Mets see him as a chess piece to use off their bench, giving manager Carlos Mendoza license to be more aggressive pinch-hitting and pinch-running during games. Because Short can play just about anywhere on the diamond, he increases Mendoza’s maneuverability. President of baseball operations David Stearns called him “a nice fit.”

“That versatility is really important,” Stearns said.

Short is grateful for that. He is certainly grateful for his fiancée, parents and two brothers, who will be in attendance, among many others, for Opening Day -- still heavy with the grief of loss but conscious of the blessings that can help heal such wounds.

“It still hasn’t hit me per se,” Short said. “But I think that drive to Citi Field on Thursday and putting that jersey on -- the real jersey on -- for the first time is going to hit pretty special.”