Shorto’s legacy of strength

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Sport - Matt Zis

BEN Shorto’s promis­ing base­ball ca­reer may have been trag­i­cally cut short but his in­flu­ence will long re­main in­te­gral to clashes be­tween his two for­mer WA clubs, Gos­nells and Melville.

Shorto was just 23 when he lost his bat­tle with can­cer last month af­ter an ex­tra­or­di­nary life of strength – on and off the ball park.

The tal­ented ju­nior from Gos­nells was fa­mously signed by Ma­jor League Base­ball’s Cleve­land In­di­ans be­fore his ini­tial di­ag­no­sis, and won a na­tional cham­pi­onship with Perth Heat in 2015 af­ter in­cred­i­bly re­turn­ing to the game he loved as a pitcher.

WA’S base­ball fra­ter­nity, led by close friend Josh Silvi, ral­lied ear­lier this month for a trib­ute day at Tom Bateman Re­serve in Thorn­lie.

On the day Thorn­lie played host to State League ri­vals Melville and a big crowd turned out to help to raise more than $2000 for Lym­phoma Aus­tralia.

Among those watch­ing on were for­mer team­mates and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Perth Heat and other State League clubs, along with Ben’s friends, for­mer school­mates and of course, his fam­ily.

Ben’s sis­ter Emma threw the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch, play­ers wore spe­cial No.29 caps and a per­pet­ual tro­phy for the best player was struck as a trib­ute.

“To me, it wasn’t about who won the game, so I de­cided to cre­ate an MVP award,” Silvi said.

“Ben al­ways wanted to be the best player on the field so it was ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Daniel Sch­midt, who had played along­side and coached Shorto, was the in­au­gu­ral win­ner.

Silvi said the trib­ute day started from a de­sire to per­son­ally hon­our his mate, but it quickly grew into a spe­cial day for many.

“With the sea­son ap­proach­ing I knew that it would be tough to get back out to base­ball with­out Ben by my side,” he said.

“I wanted to make this day for every­one else, but mainly for the fam­ily.

“Ben’s fam­ily was al­ways very in­volved with base­ball, but with Ben’s pass­ing they are not go­ing to just come down to a regu- lar lo­cal club game.”

He said their close friend­ship started from play­ing to­gether on ju­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tive teams.

“I re­mem­ber when Ben made his first state team in un­der-14s and I was in the un­der-16s,” Silvi said.

“He al­ways looked up to us other guys be­cause he was so far ad­vanced from other guys in his age group.”

Silvi said Shorto had the world at his feet when he played World Cup base­ball for Aus­tralia at un­der-16 and un­der-18 level and caught the eye of US scouts.

“He signed with the In­di­ans and it was that ini­tial phys­i­cal exam where they found the can­cer,” Silvi said. “He came straight back to Aus­tralia, beat it twice, and three to four years on he got back to the US to play.

“He got to play one game be­fore he was re­leased.”

Shorto’s can­cer came back and while it left him weaker, it didn’t di­min­ish his love for base­ball. Play­ing for Gos­nells and Perth Heat, he rein­vented his game as a pitcher.

The venue for Ben Shorto’s trib­ute game was Tom Bateman Re­serve in Thorn­lie. Pic­ture: Tahla Faatau­maua

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