He kept the gear when he left, but he doesn’t wear it anymore. Connor Short doesn’t have much need for his Auburn shirts, hats or the other clothes from his time across the state. The Alabama infielder has traded out most of his wardrobe. The blue and orange might clash with the crimson he wears today.

“None of it is in Tuscaloosa,” he said. “It’s all back home.”

Short started his college baseball career at Auburn in 2014. He’ll finish it at Alabama this spring. Short transferred from Auburn to Alabama after his freshman year, making him one of just a handful of athletes to play for both programs.

“It’s kind of hard to explain, because I never would have thought that route would be the way that I got there,” he said. “But yeah, wearing Alabama gear from when I was little, even all the way through high school, then that one year in college playing for Auburn, getting the opportunity to come to Alabama. It was cool to be able to put the ‘A’ on and go out there and compete.”

Alabama vs. No. 21 Auburn
Schedule: Friday at 6:00 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 22-17 (5-10 SEC), Auburn 26-12 (6-9 SEC)
TV: SEC Network (Saturday only)
Radio: 102.9 FM

He’ll play in his final regular season series in the rivalry this weekend when Auburn arrives in Tuscaloosa for three games.

Transferring from Auburn to Alabama isn’t a likely route for any college athlete. Going to Auburn at all might have been just as improbable for Short. He grew up as an Alabama fan. His father, Ben Short, was a standout pitcher who still holds the school’s single-season record for saves, with 14 in 1991. Connor Short grew up going to games at Sewell-Thomas Stadium before he ever pulled on an Alabama jersey.

“It was always my dream as a little kid to play at Alabama,” he said.

But Alabama signed infielders Mikey White and Kyle Overstreet a year before Short graduated from Hoover High School. The Crimson Tide added another infielder from Short’s recruiting class. There was no offer from Alabama, even though Short was ranked as the state’s No. 2 high school shortstop.

Auburn came calling late in the process.

“I never really thought about it growing up as a kid, but I always knew if I didn’t have the opportunity to go Alabama but I had the opportunity to go to Auburn, I would definitely go to Auburn to play in the SEC and be a part of that level of competition of college baseball,” Short said. “From being a fan growing up, it might have been a little weird at first but at the end of the day, I was playing baseball with a group of guys that I made friends with. We just happened to be wearing a jersey that said Auburn on it.”

He decided he “might as well buy into kind of being an Auburn fan,” while he was there, expecting to spend his next four years with the Tigers.

“But Alabama was always tugging at me in my heart every once in a while, just from growing up like that,” Short said.

There were still some funny moments in that freshman year.

His family came to see him play often, as they do now in Tuscaloosa. His grandmother, a longtime Alabama fan, came to every game.

“We were at Auburn and she was coming down after the game kind of by the left field line, by the fence to talk to me,” he said. “She kind of slipped walking down the steps, and her Alabama seat cushion flew out from her bag. It was out in front of everybody. My dad is running down there to pick it up. She was there to support her grandson, but by all means, she was still an Alabama fan at heart.”

Short started 25 games as a true freshman. He decided to transfer after the season, meaning he’d have to sit out a year. Alabama was the first school to call Short that time around.

“I felt that’s where God wanted me to go,” he said. “It may not have been the way that I wanted to get to Alabama, but it ended up being my little kid self’s dream come true, to be able to have the opportunity to play baseball at Alabama.”

His redshirt year would mean Alabama’s infielders could be drafted before he’d be eligible, opening up playing time. Short became Alabama’s everyday third baseman in 2016 and 2017 before taking a reserve role this season.

His teammates joked around about it a little, but his Auburn experience didn’t leave a scarlet letter in their eyes. Short was 2-for-13 with two RBIs as a freshman at Auburn in four games against Alabama. Since 2016, he’s 4-for-18 with three RBIs against the Tigers.

“It’s an intense rivalry from both sides. For me, in these five years of college baseball, I’ve really come to realize and the Lord showed me that the rivalry and everything, once you step off the field, you have to remember it’s just a game. There’s more important things out there than what happens on that field. At the same time, it is important and the rivalry has been cool to see from both sides. I never thought I would get to experience it like this.”

He’s gone 10-7 in the rivalry, including an 8-5 record at Alabama (including his 2015 redshirt season and games missed due to injury).

Short’s experience with the rivalry is one of a kind. He gets one more chance at it this weekend.

“I think it was God’s plan from the beginning for me to take this path,” Short said. “I don’t really think that I had a whole lot to do with it. If it was up to me, I would have gone to Alabama out of high school, played three years and been in the big leagues. God was like ‘I want you to go to Auburn for a year,’ then I transferred and got the opportunity to come to Alabama. I’m in my fifth year of school, my senior year of baseball. Just like anybody’s career, there are ups and downs. But man, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people. I’ve made so many great friends and the Lord has changed my life in unbelievable ways. I wouldn’t change any of it for anything.”

Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.