Westlake’s Jeff Short ready to call it a career… almost
By Ryan Kaczmarski
Westlake High School’s Jeff Short will be stepping down as the varsity baseball head coach at the conclusion of this season. He just hopes that it doesn’t come too soon, as the Demons head into postseason play this week.
It will be the end of his 23rd season with the Demons, and his overall career record, to this point, is 337-241, and his Southwestern Conference record stands at 181-145. His teams have made 12 district appearances, five district finals appearances and were regional qualifiers twice.
“I feel very fortunate,” Short said. “I came into Westlake – a great school system – at 23 years old – from not growing up around here – and they took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity at age 24-25 to get a head coaching job. It was something that I always wanted to do, and here we are 23 years later and I feel fortunate and blessed.”
He started his career at Westlake coaching the freshman team for one year, then moved up to be the junior varsity coach for the next two seasons before finally becoming the varsity head coach.
“I don’t care what job it is, you have to have – whether you’re a player or a coach – some skill and some knowledge, but you also have to be at the right place at the right time, sometimes,” he said. “It was a situation where the coaches that were ahead of me, and before me, had been doing it for a while and they were, basically, doing their last go-around. Then they were done and the next thing you know, there is an opening. I was lucky.”
Short has led the Demons to 19 winning seasons, including three SWC championships (1996, 2002 and 2006). He also has coached seven All-Ohio performers and has had more than 45 players move on to play in college. Todd Seljan, a 1991 WHS graduate, was also drafted and signed to a major league contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Many of his former players have also ended up in coaching positions, including current Westlake freshman coach Matt Stricker (2004), Firelands head coach Ted Busch (1993) and Ohio State University assistant coach Chris Holick (1995).
Short and his wife Julie have a 19-month old son at home, which has been one of the deciding factors in his retirement from coaching.
“Obviously, Jeff is a coach that can’t be replaced and who ever we decide to succeed him will have very big shoe to fill,” Westlake High School Athletic Director Tony Cipollone said. “His influence on our student-athletes and his commitment to building a consistent winning program has set the bar very high for any successor.
“He is the coach who cares about the kids more than he cares about wins and losses,” he added. “He is empathetic, yet logical, and especially with him being a teacher, he is dedicated to the education of young persons to make them good people.”
“I think they (the new coach) have to be their own person,” Short said. “They have to do what they think is best. The biggest thing I can tell them is that if you want to do it the right way, it takes a heck of a lot of time. You have to have drive and passion, and you have to want to put the time in.”
With that being said, Westlake still has games to play, both in the regular season and the playoffs. The Demons stand at 16-6 (8-4 in the SWC) with one regular season game remaining, Friday night’s contest against Olmsted Falls at home at 4:30 p.m. There will be a short ceremony for Coach Short following the game. Westlake starts tournament play as the No. 2 seed in the Division I Lorain district tomorrow night at home against the winner of the game between Lakewood and North Olmsted. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“I feel really good about these kids,” Short said. “We started out 0-2 in the conference and now we’re 8-4, so I think our kids are peaking at the right time. Going in (to the postseason) it should be a good team, because we have 13 seniors on this team.
“When we were 4-4, I was thinking, ‘Uh-oh, what’s going on here?’ We just hung together and kept working hard. Right now, we are pitching very well and playing very good defense.”