Thornlie: Pitch perfect send-off for former Perth Heat baseball player Ben Shorto

No.29, Ben Shorto's baseball number, adorns the diamond at Tom Bateman Reserve in Thornlie. Picture: Tahla Faataumaua
No.29, Ben Shorto's baseball number, adorns the diamond at Tom Bateman Reserve in Thornlie. Picture: Tahla Faataumaua

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 reinvented 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.

Action from the game between Gosnells and Melville. Picture: Tahla Faataumaua

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, all 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.

Daniel Schmidt

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 regular local club game.”

Players from both teams shared the diamond with Ben Shorto’s family before the game. Picture: Tahla Faataumaua

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.”

Sadly, 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.

“In that season when he was pitching he went on to win a championship and he pitched in Game 3 in Adelaide, so he was very much a part of that championship team,” Silvi said. “It just shows you the raw talent that he did have.”