Jays' Norris on God's team

Jays rookie pitcher Daniel Norris works out in Dunedin, Fla. (MELISSA COUTO photo)

Jays rookie pitcher Daniel Norris works out in Dunedin, Fla. (MELISSA COUTO photo)

MELISSA COUTO, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:31 PM ET

DUNEDIN, FLA. - Arlington has Josh Hamilton, Denver has Tim Tebow, and now, Toronto may have Daniel Norris.

The 18-year-old Blue Jays pitching prospect worked out at Bobby Mattick Field Monday with excitement for the upcoming season on his mind, and two crosses around his neck.

Norris, a devout Christian who makes no attempt to hide his faith, maintains that though baseball is his life, God always comes first.

“I play baseball because I love it more than anything, but I play baseball for God,” the left-throwing Norris said. “If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t get this opportunity to play with the Blue Jays. As I always say, I’m a Christian who doubles as a baseball player.”

In the upcoming years, Norris will get the chance to rise in the Blue Jays ranks. If he can make it to the major leagues, he will join the likes of Hamilton and Tebow in a group of openly Christian athletes on the professional sports scene.

He has already spoken with both.

“Throughout the whole draft process I spoke with them, and they’re everything they seem to be,” said Norris who was selected 74th overall. “From my stand point, it would be a great opportunity to, of course, be in the big leagues, but also, to reach out to people on a higher level like those two are able to do.”

The Johnson City, Tenn., native signed with Toronto out of high school last August. Though he says there was little doubt that he wanted to play baseball professionally, he admits others have expressed concern that the lifestyle of the traveling ball player would weaken his faith.

“Even before I left for spring training, people told me to stay faithful,” explained the 6-foot-3, 185-pound rookie. “My parents especially would say, ‘Be who you are. Don’t change for anybody,’ and I always keep that in mind.”

Some see benefits to this Christian lifestyle, including Norris’ former East Cobb Yankees coach, James Beavers, who suggests Norris, “won’t be one of those (players) who will be burning the candle at both ends.”

The pitcher has been in Dunedin since early last month where he has bonded with his new teammates, whether they share his beliefs or not.

“Half the guys in there don’t know God and it’s not like I see that and say, ‘They don’t know God. I’m a better person than them,’” Norris said. “One thing I’ve learned along the way is that you can’t be so holy that people don’t want to talk to you.”

Alone on the mound, Norris becomes as devout a Christian as can be.

“I say a Bible verse to myself hundreds of times during a game while I’m pitching,” he said. “When I throw a good game, glory goes to God, and if I’m pitching badly, I know he’ll get me through it.

“Obviously on the baseball field, I want to perform as best I can. I want to win games,” Norris said. “Ultimately, in life, I want to be known as a Christian, but baseball is my life and I think it ties together really nicely.”


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