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Former SHHS baseball ace to start pro career in Bristol

Kelly Hodge • Jun 15, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Daniel Norris will get his professional baseball career started close to home.

The former Science Hill ace said Friday that he’s been assigned to Bluefield of the Appalachian League. The Blue Jays open their season Tuesday night at Bristol.

“I’m ecstatic right now, really stoked for it,” Norris said from the Toronto Blue Jays’ training facilities in Dunedin, Fla. “It will be nice to play close to home, and I could use a change of scenery. Man, it’s hot down here.”

The left-hander, Toronto’s second-round draft pick last June, isn’t sure yet whether he’ll pitch in the opener, but he looks forward to getting on the mound for the first time. He’s been working out in Florida since early February.

“I came down a month early just to get acclimated to everything, get used to the workouts,” said Norris, who received a $2 million signing bonus from the Blue Jays last August. “It’s been a blast. Right now I feel like a completely different pitcher. I’m able to repeat my delivery and stay on top of the ball; I just have better command of my pitches.

“I’m excited to go out and put the knowledge to use in some real games.”

Bluefield isn’t scheduled to visit Cardinal Park until Aug. 1. That would be a much-anticipated homecoming for Norris, who fashioned a remarkable high school career at the park.

“It would be great to get on that mound again,” he said.

The Blue Jays will see Johnson City, the two-time defending league champion, in their home park a week from today.

Norris has been working on three-inning stints in Florida, with a five-day rotation for the pitchers. Extended spring training just ended, and Norris said he would be flying out on Saturday.

He said he’s been keeping up with his old neighborhood buddies Paul Hoilman and Matt Rice this season. Both are playing Class A ball in the Midwest League – Hoilman with Peoria (Cubs) and Rice with Bowling Green (Rays) – and they were named to their respective all-star teams.

Rice, a catcher, was batting .291 heading into Thursday’s game; Hoilman, who had a 24-game hitting streak earlier in the season, was at .274.

“Paul and I have talked quite a bit,” said Norris. “We were really good friends growing up; he’s been like a big brother all of my life. This offseason we worked out every day together at ETSU.

“I know him and Matt are both having all-star seasons, and I’m so happy for them. It’s good to see old friends do well in the game.”

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