It wasn’t about the proper angle for your arm to be or the release of a specific pitch. It was simply to follow your dreams and to have fun playing baseball.
Even in his case, the former Science Hill High School star reminds himself that baseball is about having fun. It’s come after a series of ups and downs the last two seasons of him realizing his dream of making it to the Major Leagues, but then being sidelined twice for injuries.
He was traded from Toronto to Detroit in July and then diagnosed with a cancerous growth on his thyroid which was removed in October.
“I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in, playing Major League baseball,” said Norris, who went 3-2 in 13 starts this past season. “I always keep that in perspective. There are always going to be ups and downs, not matter where you are, who you are or what you’re.”
Norris, 22, was experiencing some of the highest of highs at the start of last season. He was named to the Blue Jays’ starting rotation and he was getting all kinds of national attention, featured on both CBS News and ESPN, for him living in a van along the beach during spring training.
“That was pretty crazy, really unexpected,” he said. “People kept calling, but it was good. I’m kind of glad it’s over with, but it was cool while it lasted.”
It wasn’t some publicity stunt as Norris plans to live by the beach again at spring training.
But this time around, some things will be different.
He’s with a new team after being in a trade involving Cy Young winner David Price, another former Tennessee high school star, last July.
The move to Detroit has worked out well for Norris, who in his debut with the Tigers pitched 7 1/3 innings and retired 12 straight batters at one point in a 6-1 win over Baltimore.
On August 19, Norris had another career highlight, hitting a monster 419-foot home run to dead center field off Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester in his first plate appearance.
“It still excites me thinking about that moment,” Norris said about turning on the fastball. “I think about b.p. (batting practice) and everything leading up to it. Seeing one of my favorite pitchers on the mound, that was really special and something I will never forget.”
Norris wasn’t done with the highlights as his diving catch off the pitcher’s mound in a game against the Orioles was another youtube sensation.
Paul Hoilman, a former ETSU All-American who won the 2010 College Home Run Derby, told the group of young players about Norris growing up. He said it was more than just talent that helped Norris make it to the big leagues.
“He loves the game more than anybody I know,” Hoilman said. “Every day, we would drive by his house and he would be throwing a ball into a net.”
Norris used to throw another ball into the net as a member of the Science Hill basketball team. He also played football, but gave up other sports prior to his senior year. He still feels it’s better in the vast majority of cases for players to participate in multiple sports instead of specializing in just one.
Now, he feels blessed to play the one sport professionally. He added he enjoys hanging out with the kids, remembering what it was like seeing his sports heroes.
He preaches to the younger players a message to keep working towards their goals.
“The biggest thing I want to pass on them is to follow that dream,” he said. “So many times, I was told no, that I was dreaming too big and I needed to have a backup plan. You can’t listen to somebody say something is unrealistic because it’s not.”