May 23—HIGH POINT — Wearing a High Point Rockers uniform for the first time, Randy Norris could cite one advantage he owns over the others going through the preseason workouts that began Thursday at Truist Point stadium.
“I’ve got the best host family,” Norris said. “My mother.”
That’s because Norris lives in High Point, where he grew up.
“I can be at the stadium from the south side of town in less than 10 minutes,” he said.
Norris played baseball for T. Wingate Andrews High for three seasons, the last in 2014, before spending his senior year at Greensboro Dudley. He went on to play at Winston-Salem State and was good enough to be drafted by the San Francisco Giants organization in the 19th round of the 2018 MLB amateur draft.
He made it as far as the high Class-A ranks with the San Jose (California) Giants before the minor league career came to an end when the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got a taste of minor-league ball,” he said.
Norris came back to High Point, resumed pursuit of his degree in Mass Communications and began coaching a U-14 travel ball team, Team Norris Heat, that he organized.
“When baseball shut down, I decided I had to do something with my life,” Norris said. “I decided to go back and help some kids. I love them to death.”
Last weekend, he participated in tryouts with the Rockers along with seven others. Norris is among three who performed well enough to be given a chance to make the 25-man roster for opening day Friday in York, Pennsylvania. The Rockers opened training camp with 29 players.
On Friday, he graduated from Winston-Salem State then suited up for the Rockers first exhibition game against Gastonia.
“I didn’t think I was going to play again,” Norris said Thursday before heading off to take swings in the batting cage. “I got a call last Sunday from the Rockers asking me to come out. So, I came out. I always wanted to play here because it’s my hometown team. I knew if I went out of baseball, not with an MLB team anymore, that if I wanted to play again, it would be with the Rockers.
“I got that call like I wanted, so I took advantage of it,” Norris said.
Norris hopes he can make the club as the start of a way back to playing in affiliated ball. The Rockers, an outfielder, are members of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
“I’m still young, still growing,” Norris said. “I think I’m more mature in my body. I’ve kept it up during the 14 months out of baseball. I think I’m more prepared (for affiliated ball) than I was before. Doing this everyday, I feel quite confident in myself.”
Norris isn’t taking anything for granted over the coming week.
“I don’t want to jump the gun,” Norris said. “I’m all about coming out here every day and putting in the hard work, giving the 110% max effort. I’ve got all that on all my baseball gloves.”
The opportunity with the Rockers means that Norris has turned his travel ball team over to others.
“My kids are happy that they might have an opportunity to see me play,” Norris said. “One of my friends who played at North Carolina A&T has started coaching them now. I spent all my time with them the past 14 months. They’re more excited now that I’m playing on a professional level. They want to see me play. The kids are like my little brothers. I’m the guy they look up to.
“So now the goal is to make the team, go out and give 110% and have fun, fun, fun.”
Norris started in centerfield Friday when the Rockers played the Gastonia Honey Hunters in the first exhibition game for both teams. He grounded out in his first bat but laced a hit to the gap in right-center in the fourth.
Between first and second, Norris pulled up. He made it second for a double but was lifted for a pinch runner.
After the game, Rocker manager Jamie Keefe said Norris suffered a cramp and had looked good in camp so far.
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