Revisiting ESPN's Man in the Van: Why was this pitcher baptized in his baseball uniform?

Get ready for some ghostbusting.

Way back in March, we spotted holy ghosts in an otherwise terrific ESPN the Magazine profile of highly touted pitcher Daniel Norris, then with the Toronto Blue Jays:

Readers had alerted us to the story's blatant avoidance of religion:

In my critique of the ESPN story, I wrote:

Given how much Norris talks about his faith, there's no way ESPN missed the religion angle. The magazine obviously chose to ignore it, and that's a shame.
Granted, ESPN still produced a fascinating story — a solid double off the wall.
But the magazine missed a chance to hit a straight-down-the-middle fastball out of the park.

Fast-forward more than six months, and Norris now pitches for the Detroit Tigers (he's the scheduled starter vs. the Chicago White Sox tonight). Detroit obtained Norris in late July in a deal that sent former American League Cy Young Award winner David Price to Toronto.

Typically at GetReligion, we are not in a position to ask the actual source of a story about the handling of the religion content. 

But on a recent reporting trip to Detroit, I interviewed Norris, a member of the Central Church of Christ in Johnson City, Tenn., for The Christian Chronicle:

During our conversation in the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park, I sought the pitcher's feedback on ESPN's treatment of his Christian faith:

Before the 2015 season started, ESPN the Magazine dubbed Norris “The Most Interesting Pitcher in Baseball.”

In an in-depth feature titled “Man in the Van,” ESPN portrayed Norris as a quirky soul who “lives by his own code,” including sleeping in a 1978 Volkswagen camper for which he paid $10,000.
He “is a hippie who has never tried drugs” and “says he has never tasted alcohol,” the magazine said.

After receiving a $2 million signing bonus in 2011, Norris gave money to the Central church and his parents and set a meager $800-a-month living allowance for himself.

“God, please don’t let the money change me,” he prayed.

Might his simple, environmentally friendly lifestyle have something to do with his Christian faith?

“Exactly,” the pitcher said with a smile.

“The guy who wrote it, he obviously has to answer to an editor,” Norris said of the ESPN article. “But as bad as it sounds, I think he did a good job of sneaking it in there — how I live and my morals and my faith — without actually coming out and saying it. Because as sad as it is, I think some of that would have been edited out.” 

Would ESPN purposely avoid religion content, even if it gave readers a better, fuller understanding of the person profiled?

I'd like to think not.

But in this case, it's hard to draw any other conclusion.

As for the obvious question that ESPN left unanswered up high: Why was Norris baptized in his baseball uniform? By all means, read my Chronicle story and find out.

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