Van Life is Driving Toronto Blue Jays P Daniel Norris to the Major Leagues

The Toronto Blue Jays' top pitching prospect takes an unconventional approach to spring training—and to life in general.

Home is where one makes it.

For Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris, home is a 1978 Volkswagen camper.

Norris is the No. 1 prospect in the Blue Jays organization, and he is bidding for a spot in the club's opening day starting rotation. He makes his spring training home in the Westfalia camper parked in the lot of a 24-hour Wal-Mart near the Blue Jays' facility in Dunedin, Florida.

This isn't a case of a financially strapped minor league player roughing it on the road to the Big Leagues. After all, Norris received a $2 million signing bonus for inking his rookie deal with the Jays in 2011.

As Eli Saslow of ESPN the Magazine reports, Norris is a nonconformist who decided the best way to prepare for the grind of the 162-game Major League season was to post up in the camper. Saslow writes: "He has always lived by his own code, no matter what anyone thinks: a three-sport star athlete in high school who spent weekends camping alone; a hippie who has never tried drugs. . . He is 21 and says he has never tasted alcohol. He has had one serious relationship, with his high school girlfriend, and it ended in part because he wanted more time to travel by himself. . .He reads hardcover books and never a Kindle. He avoids TV and studies photography journals instead."

By Saslow's account, Norris has a remarkable perspective on baseball—and life, in general—for a 21-year-old. Baseball America ranked him as the number 17 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2015 season. However, the Blue Jays front office had some initial concerns that Norris's unconventional lifestyle—e.g., sleeping in a crawl space behind the driver's seat with his head tucked against the back door—might affect his on-field performance. Saslow: "And yet for some reason, in Norris's case, it also seemed to be working, so the team's curiosity never rose to the level of complaint. 'He takes care of himself as well as anybody we've got,' says Tony LaCava, Toronto's assistant general manager. 'He's in great shape. He competes on the mound. If that wasn't the case, maybe we'd be more worried about some of the other stuff. But right now, the van and all that is secondary. He has great values, and they're working for him.'"

You may be wondering: what does a guy living in a van do for his off-season training?

He play outdoors, of course.

Norris has spent as much time hiking and riding trails on his mountain bike as he has throwing pitches off the mound. His latest off-season obsession is surfing, an activity he picked up a few years ago.

So what can a youth or high school athlete take away from adventures of Daniel Norris? We're not advising you to go live in a van down by the river. Rather, be true to yourself and stick to your beliefs. So far it's worked for the Van Man.

 


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

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