From 'van man' to man of God: Finally, a ghost-free profile of quirky Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris

My three favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. Christmas. Opening Day.

I'm on vacation from my regular job this week and headed — as soon as I can type this post and throw a few baseball shirts and jeans into a suitcase — to Arlington, Texas. My beloved Texas Rangers open the 2017 season at home tonight against the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians.

If you need me, I'll be Section 115, Row 33, Seat 5.

Given the peanuts-and-Cracker Jacks nature of this Monday, it seems only appropriate that I critique a baseball story — and thanks to my friend Ron Hadfield, an avid Detroit Tigers fan, I've got a terrific one to highlight.

"Here's one Detroit sportswriter unafraid to write about a player's faith," Hadfield said in sharing a link to this story:

If you're a baseball fan and a GetReligion reader (by my rough count, there are three of  you), I know what you're thinking about this ghost-free Detroit Free Press profile of Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris.

And I agree: It's about time someone in the mainstream press delved into Norris' faith and took it seriously. We've been begging for this since Norris first burst onto the national scene with an in-depth ESPN the Magazine profile two years ago:

Later that same season, I did some behind-the-scenes ghostbusting and interviewed Norris for The Christian Chronicle — answering a key question that ESPN ignored:

Still, ghosts kept haunting baseball writers' features about Norris:

But the Free Press story that Hadfield shared focuses on presenting a more nuanced portrait of Norris — from his serious passion for baseball to, yes, his deep commitment to his faith:

The biggest moment of his final season in a Science Hill High School baseball uniform didn’t come on the field. It came immediately after a 14-strikeout, one-hitter in the state playoffs, when Norris went up to his brother-in-law and told him he needed to get baptized.
That night.
“Just knowing him, it didn’t really surprise me,” Tim Haywood said.
Throughout Norris’ teenage years, Haywood – who is married to Norris’ older sister Amanda – was his right-hand man in taking the next step in Christianity, which led him to connecting with former All-Star Josh Hamilton late in high school.
A sports agency who was pursuing Norris put them on the phone, and they ended up talking for more than two hours about faith. Once or twice a week, Hamilton would text Norris a verse of the week. Sometimes, the messages came every day.
One text from Hamilton, encouraging Norris to remember 2 Peter 3:18, resonated most: “By growing the grace in our Lord, he’ll be the glory now and forever.”

Keep reading, and the Free Press offers additional revealing details about Norris' Christian journey. I'd copy and paste a few more snippets, but I'm in a hurry to hit the road, so do you mind clicking the link and reading the rest yourself?

It's an interesting, insightful story — a perfect treat for Opening Day.

Homepage image via Daniel Norris' Twitter profile

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