Speaking during his fifth annual clinic held at the RBI Tri-Cities baseball facility, the former Science Hill star told them it entailed a lot of effort.
“The main thing I’ve learned is to work harder than anybody, work harder than the guy next to you whether it’s weight training, pitching or hitting,” Norris said. “Even if you don’t play baseball, if you work hard and are honest, you will be happy in the end.”
Norris, a 25-year-old left-hander with a 12-17 career record, is certainly happy with his latest deal. He agreed to a one-year, $1.275 million contract with the Tigers on Friday.
It’s been a tough few seasons for Norris, a 2014 first-round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, who traded him to the Tigers a year later. He went on the 60-day disabled list with a groin injury on May 8, marking his fourth straight season on the DL. After undergoing surgery, he didn’t return to the lineup until Sept. 1 and finished the season with an 0-5 record in 11 appearances.
After the season he participated in the MLB Japan All-Star Series in November, alongside such players as Yadier Molina and former Blue Jays teammate Kevin Pillar. Don Mattingly served as the team’s manager.
“It was great to get out there and pitch again,” Norris said about his late-season comeback. “Going through rehab after groin surgery was really hard on me. Now, I’m finally able to get stronger and work towards getting back to normal. I’m feeling really good.”
The rehab was more intensive than one might imagine. Norris literally had to teach himself how to walk again before training to get back on the field. Along the way were some setbacks, which he admitted were mentally taxing.
Norris had been throwing a 93 to 97 mph fastball the start of the 2018 season, although it had dropped to the 88 to 90 mph range before his surgery. Now feeling better, he’s ready to get back to his old form.
“I feel I can now train and be very successful,” he said. “I have the fast-four and slider that I had to use last year because of the injury. If I’m back to normal, I think I will have all four pitches again and will be successful.”
Already one of the rare ones successful enough to make it to the highest level of his sport, he feels confident about shedding a reliever’s role and regaining his place in the starting rotation.
PUTTING ON A CLINIC
Norris, who played with the Johnson City Major League as a youngster, also remains passionate about the clinic. His love of the game is apparent and in what has become an annual tradition, those attending the clinic get to see him pitch for the first time in the new year.
“It’s so amazing and very special every year,” Norris said. “Obviously, I love being around the kids.
“When we were signing items at the end of it, I saw some of my signatures from the last couple of years. It’s cool that people are coming back and having fun. I enjoy it so much.”
OTHER LOCAL STARS LEND A HAND
Fellow Science Hill alumni- turned-professional pitchers Will Carter and Reed Hayes also helped at the clinic. Carter played with the Yankees organization in Trenton, New Jersey, and Tampa, Florida, last season. Hayes was with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds in the Orioles organization.
While not at the clinic, it was learned that former Science Hill first baseman Will Craig has gotten a big-league invite to this year’s Pittsburgh Pirates spring training.
Paul Hoilman, the 2010 College Home Run Derby champion who later played in the Cubs organization, and fellow East Tennessee State alumni Dylan Pratt and Scott Hoilman were among the other local baseball stars who helped with the clinic.
“Seeing Will Carter, my best friend, Paul, Dylan and all the other guys helping out, it was like we were these kids back in the day,” Norris said. “It’s neat how we’ve all grown up and had the chance to play pro ball. It’s really a special day and something I look forward to every year.”