Legacy. Tradition. A who’s who of American sport. As the Gatorade Player of the Year program celebrates its 30th anniversary year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, fans can count many a household name on the roster of former award-winners. Over the past three decades, prep sports’ most esteemed honor boasts Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, WNBA, MLS Cup, NCAA and Olympic champions among more than 13,000 State Players of the Year and 270 National POYs across 12 sports. Let’s not forget the scores of program alumni who have gone on to capture league-MVP, All-Star and All-American recognition. Today, we’re catching up with Daniel Norris.
If left-handed pitchers have unfairly been branded as being a bit flaky, Daniel Norris isn’t doing much to squash the stereotype, but at the very least he is making the late Chris Farley proud. You may recall the Saturday Night Live alum had a fondness for folks living in vans down by the river.
Norris, the Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie southpaw, gained notoriety this offseason for voluntarily living in a 1978 Volkswagen he nicknamed “Shaggy” (after the “Scooby-Doo” character, naturally), but he certainly hopes his unusual living quarters aren’t his only claim to fame. With his first start of the 2015 season slated for Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, Norris is looking to enhance his reputation that has helped him emerge as an early frontrunner in the American League Rookie of the Year race.
It would be a nice piece of hardware to add to Norris’s mantle—or, in his case, glove compartment. He could keep it right next to his 2010-11 Gatorade Tennessee Baseball Player of the Year trophy, which he earned as a senior playing for Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill High. That season, Norris compiled an 8-2 record while racking up 123 strikeouts in 68.2 innings and leading the Hilltoppers to the Class AAA sectional finals.
In the years since, his run of success has continued during his climb through the professional ranks. Norris made his Major League debut with the Jays last year, hurling 6.2 innings without a win or a loss in five late-season appearances. That followed a 2014 minor-league season during which he collected a 12-2 record, a 2.53 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 124.1 innings, earning promotions from Single-A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo before getting the call to The Show.
This spring, Norris produced even more impressive numbers, finishing 4-0 in seven Grapefruit League starts with a 2.93 ERA and 30 K’s in 27.2 innings.
With that kind of pitching, it may not be long before Norris catches up with fellow Gatorade Tennessee Baseball Player of the Year Sonny Gray, who won the award as a senior at Smyrna High in 2008. Of course, that may be easier said than done. A 14-game winner for the Oakland Athletics a year ago, Gray came tantalizingly close to tossing an Opening Day no-hitter against the Texas Rangers earlier this week.
That’s impressive and all, but we didn’t see any of Gray’s teammates driving his living quarters around the infield after the game to celebrate. If Norris lives up to his potential, though, such a sight might not be so uncommon.
To see the legacy for yourself, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year winner archive, where you can relive history and see which future stars won their first national recognition as high school athletes. To see the cream of the crop, visit the roster of Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year winners, showcasing Gatorade’s top male and female National Player of the Year honoree, selected annually from each POY class.