Pablo JuarezMercury Staff
From All-Star to record holder, senior infielder Jimmy Norris is at the top of his game. Norris is in the midst of his second stint with the Brazos Valley Bombers as he competes against other student-athletes in the Texas Collegiate League.
The Texas Collegiate League is a university-level summer baseball league featuring a total of six Texas and Louisiana-based teams. The league is active from May 28 to Aug. 7.
This is Norris’s second consecutive season with the Bombers. He earned a permanent position with the squad after originally being brought on as a temporary player.
“I got a call last summer … three days before the season started from Coach (Curt Dixon) of the Bombers,” Norris said. “(He) said they needed a temporary guy to come fill in a spot.”
Taking Dixon up on his offer, Norris ended up breaking the Bombers’ single-season stolen bases record. He finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the entire league with 22 stolen bases.
“I ended up doing really well and turned a temporary position into a full-time signing,” he said.
The Bombers finished the 2014 season with a record of 45-15. The team defeated the Victoria Generals in the TCL Championship Series, becoming the first team to capture back-to-back titles in league history.
“(In) last year’s championship series, we won on a crazy comeback on a walk-off and ended up winning game three for the championship,” Norris said. “The whole team got to celebrate … champagne on the field and everything. That was probably the most memorable (moment).”
The Texas Collegiate League features student-athletes from across the country. Norris is one of the few Division III players in the league this season, along with the Comets’ third baseman, Brandon George, who suffered a shoulder injury in June that shut him down for the rest of the summer season.
“We got four guys from (Texas A&M University), four guys from (Oklahoma State University). We have a lot of huge school (Division I) guys,” Norris explained. “A couple of my teammates already got drafted … It’s real competitive down here.”
Earlier this season, Norris was selected as a reserve infielder for the 2015 TCL All-Star game for the first time. He was one of 12 players to represent the Bombers during the day’s festivities.
“I came in the third or fourth inning … went 2-for-3 and had a couple steals. I had a good game,” Norris said. “Before the game we (took batting practice) and there (were) 15 (Major League Baseball) scouts up there watching us. So it was pretty cool.”
Even though the odds are stacked against him, Norris’s end goal is to one day play in the MLB, although he said playing in the minors would also be an accomplishment for him.
His passion for the game began at an early age.
Baseball played an integral part in his family’s history.
“(I began playing baseball) as early as you can start, probably since I was about five years old,” Norris said. “My uncle played for the (Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers) for a few years, my dad played in the minors for the Indians, and both my brothers played in college as well. We all played baseball since we were born.”
Head UTD baseball coach Shane Shewmake said Norris has a non-stop motor and exceptional work ethic, making him a vital part of the team.
“He’s not going to get outworked by anybody. He’s scrappy, he’s hard nosed, (his) uniform is always dirty,” Shewmake said. “He’s a leader by example, more than anything.”
Norris approaches each baseball game he plays in the same manner, whether it’s during UTD’s regular season in the spring or during his stint with the Bombers in the summer.
“I bring the same intensity to every game,” Norris said. “When you’re on the field that’s just something you have to do.”
Originally a transfer from McMurry University, Norris will enter his final year as a Comet this fall. He looks to improve on all aspects of his game this summer, especially his batting mechanics.
“[I’ll] take everything I’ve learned … and do everything I can in the off-season to get ready,” he said.