March 27, 2013
By Michael Eldridge | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – Hotel pillow cases are a lot like laundry bags. At least to junior Matt Shortall, who mistakenly picked up a pillow case instead of his laundry bag containing all of his jersey’s on a road trip in 2012.
As he told the story, he looked around to see if any of his coaches were around him.
“This will be the first time that they hear about it,” Shortall laughed. “But it is ok because that was last year, I can’t get in trouble for it now.”
Luckily for Shortall, a parent was able to pick up the correct bag and return it to its owner. The outgoing and comedic designated hitter has grown up while being a Maverick. While he is still himself, he's matured and become an example to the team around him.
Shortall is a leader on and off of the field for the Mavericks, a team coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament and conference championship. He has gone without a hit in only three games this season and had a team-high 13-game hitting streak that was snapped Tuesday at Texas A&M.
In 2012, Shortall finished with a .275 batting average. He opened up the season as the Southland Conference Hitter of the Week after a 7-for-14 (.500) effort at Louisiana Tech. It didn't come as easy the rest of the season, as Shortall went through a learning curve as a hitter. Shortall is hitting a team-high .372 this season, good for second in the Western Athletic Conference.
“I really think that it is more of a maturity thing and getting more at-bats,” Shortall said of his improvement at the plate. “I went out to California during the summer and got a lot of at-bats out there.”
Shortall leads the Mavs in six major statistical categories. Along with his batting average, he leads in slugging percentage (.581), runs scored (16), runs batted in (25), doubles (8) and total bases (50). The junior also is tied with Justin Copeland and Ryan Walker with a team-leading 32 hits.
To say Shortall is outgoing is an understatement, especially those around him on a daily basis. An August 2012 YouTube video featuring the UT Arlington baseball squad shows the lighter side of Shortall. Dancing, laughing and having a good time is a common theme. But beyond the fun is a person that is serious and humble about his leadership position within the team.
“I try to be the same person every day,” Shortall said. “I am not going to be fake and be the fake leadership type. I am naturally kind of loud. I’m not that old, but I have been around it longer than a lot of people. I’ve been on some good teams and it’s good to be around it every day.”
Those qualities appear in a personal project that he leads while producing content for “Inside UTA Baseball” on Facebook or @InsideUTA_BSB on Twitter. Shortall shares an inside look at what the day-to-day grind is like for a baseball player competing in college athletics.
“I did it originally because of my major and there is a lot of social media stuff going around,” Shortall said. “Every game you have to have a really neutral attitude. It kind of gets you down to that it is just a game and you have to realize a lot of people are looking. It is good for me to write about it every once awhile and keep my head level.”
He said one of his favorite parts of blogging about the team is the hearing from others.
“I love the feedback that I get,” he said. “Getting those good lucks is always great for everybody on the team.”
For the remainder of the season, Shortall and the team are looking for what can make them click as the Mavericks move deeper into WAC play and the conference tournament at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.
“We haven’t been able to play to our capabilities,” Shortall said. “This team has just as much talent as the team that went to regionals last year. We are just waiting for it to click for us. These next couple of conference weekends will tell us what will click. Once we click we will be fine and will have a good shot at winning the conference.”
Shortall and the Mavericks get another opportunity to click this weekend when UTA travels to Ruston, La. to take on Louisiana Tech for the second time this season. The Mavs (12-12, 2-1) swept the Bulldogs to open up the season in a nonconference series on Feb. 15-17. First pitch this Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.