05/28/11 10:00 AM ET
High school season over, Norris itching to play
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
With his baseball future to be determined in the coming weeks -- the top-rated high school left-hander in the country, he's projected to be taken in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on June 6 -- Norris is eager to get back on the field and continue to pursue a passion that holds an intriguing future for him, no matter what his next step may be.
His options are as solid as a graduating senior could want: Norris soon will have a lucrative signing bonus from a Major League team to consider as a potential upper-rotation starter, and he already has an attractive opportunity to fulfill a scholarship commitment to Clemson, where he could play in the field as well. In the meantime, he's itching to return to Georgia to play for the East Cobb Yankees summer-league team for a third year, continuing his development and feeding his love of the game.
One option Norris isn't considering: Waiting around, not playing baseball.
"People have told me I should take the summer, just relax and be like a normal kid, go on vacation, that sort of thing," said Norris, an 18-year-old lifelong resident of Johnson City, Tenn. "But I love the game so much, I don't know if I could take a whole summer away from it.
"I'm not going to lay around and do nothing. I love to play this game, and that's what I want to do."
That passion for the game, and a fastball that kicks up to the mid-90s mph range with a changeup and 12-to-6 curve to go with it, makes Norris the type of player Major League teams are considering making a first-round pick.
Yet that passion might also leave him thinking his best next step would be at the college level. The strong Tigers program could help develop him into a Major Leaguer while allowing him to continue to enjoy the game to the fullest -- as a two-way player, pitching and playing center field.
"That's something that appeals to me a ton," said Norris, who stands 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. "My best opportunity to go to the next level is as a pitcher. I know that, but Clemson's offered me an opportunity to not only pitch but to play center field as well.
"I love pitching, I really do. I also love playing in the field, because you get to do that every day, and I really appreciate the chance to play this wonderful game of baseball day in and day out. I love playing this game every day, and as a position player, you get that opportunity."
Norris said he's preparing to travel to Georgia as early as next week to work out and play games with the East Cobb Yankees at one of the premier youth facilities in the country, where it's baseball from the first minute of the day to the last.
"It's almost like a utopia," he said.
The previous two springs, Norris led the Science Hill High School baseball team into the state tournament, but this year's Hilltoppers team fell just short. He finished with a 33-3 career record for the Hilltoppers, and continued to rack up strikeouts to the very last outing, posting 10 while pushing the 120-pitch mark.
It wasn't the way he wanted his prep career to end, but Norris cherishes his senior season.
"With everything going on with me and all my teammates obviously being aware of it, they were just very supportive of me, and that meant a lot," Norris said. "It could have been a distraction, and it wasn't. They were there for me, and it was important to me to be in such a close-knit group."
Now, Norris approaches the biggest decision of his life with a relaxed attitude, saying his religious faith provides comfort that whatever happens will be the right move.
Whatever path he chooses, he'll be doing what he most loves to do: playing baseball -- right now, if not sooner.
"I just want to play through these decisions," he said. "I think that will help put my mind at ease, and I just can just go out and have fun doing what I love to do."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.