Beyond Athletics

4 Things We Can Learn From Pro Baseball Player Daniel Norris


The Toronto Blue Jay’s top pitching prospect is a 6’2” 21 year-old out of Johnsonville, TN named Daniel Norris. Recognized as the third-best left handed prospect in 2014, Norris’s story is already good thanks to his athletic prowess.

What makes his story great?

Well, let’s just say, he’s got some quirky tendencies that make him standout – and all in a good way.

Norris is unlike any other MLB millionaire I’ve ever known. Norris lives in a 1976 VW van, allots himself $800 a month to live on, and the truth is, his way of life – and the message he strives to send in living it – is pretty inspiring.

So what are a few key takeaways student-athletes everywhere can learn from pro baseball player Daniel Norris? (Aside from how to grow a rocking beard.)

Be True To Yourself

The fast-paced, glamorous life of a 20-something with pockets full of cash and international fame may be a dream come true for many. For Norris, it is something he’s not all that comfortable with. For this reason, he’s taken certain steps since signing his multi-million dollar contract with the Blue Jays to continue to live a life he can be himself in. He believes he can only be a great baseball player if he’s living a life he believes in, a life he is proud of, a life built on the values he grew up with.

No amount of ridicule or eyebrow raising can sway Norris from this choice to follow his heart and passions – alongside baseball – in his daily life. He lives in a van he bought for next-to-nothing the day he signed his contract with the Jays. He cooks all his own meals on an electric skillet out of said van. In the off-season, he relies on Mother Nature for all his workouts – surfs for core strength, paddles for arm strength, hikes mountains and runs trails to take care of his legs, and so on.

Though teased by teammates, questioned by execs, Norris has stayed true to himself and has let his performance on the mound hush the peanut gallery.

Work Hard and Fulfill Commitments

While Norris has his own way of doing things, he has never faltered when it comes to team rules and commitments. Are there times he has to work out conventionally – with a trainer in the weight room, with a conditioning coach on the field, or watching film with teammates? Of course.

Is he going to have to shave his beard and give up his van to comply with team regulations and travel restrictions during the season? Yes. And he’s ready to do so.

There are plenty of ways he can continue to be himself – like waking up early on game days in new cities to explore the town and take pictures, or declining alcohol when offered, something he’s never been interested in drinking – but the cool thing about Norris is that as such a free bird, he respects the rules; he understands why they’re in place, and following the guidelines of the organization is how he can stay part of the team and be doing something he loves for a living – throwing the baseball.

Respect the Environment and Give Back

Norris has a passion for the environment. Norris has used his fame and good fortune to now promote brands he believes in that are also good for the planet. Brands local to his hometown in Tennessee. Global brands like Patagonia – notorious for their stewardship, and foundations committed to conservation and recycling.

His dream is to combine his passion for baseball with this passion for the environment and to find ways to make ball parks more eco-friendly. I love how passionate he is. I’m kind of blushing as I write this.

It’s Not What You Have

Norris doesn’t own a television, iPad, or kindle, although hecan often be found with a hard cover or paperback book when not at work on the mound. He journals daily with words of gratitude and gratification. He has entrusted his millions in the bank to financial advisors who have been instructed to deposit $800 – half of what he would earn if he worked for minimum wage in the US – into his bank account every month. He talks to his parents every night.

Are we suggesting you run away from your parents’ house or ditch your dorm room and live out of your jeep for the next year? Certainly not! What we are suggesting is that it’s always a good idea to do a little soul searching and a little gut check. Learn from other people who seem to be doing good and getting it right – and in the world we all have in common, the world of athletics.

Are the things you put first in your life the right things? What’s necessary to be healthy and make the world a better place for our teammates and families? Norris tells us we need to, “Be kind. Be courteous. Love others and be happy. It’s that simple.” Pretty good stuff.

Photo credit: (Flickr – Jason Goulding)

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.