A Swing from the Past

Riverside knows David Norman as an energetic 29-year-old social studies teacher, but before this he was a record holder for Duke’s baseball team.

He was a shortstop, right fielder, and first baseman, and grew up around baseball, which became a huge factor in his life.

When Norman was in third grade, he began playing the sport he still loves to this day. Norman’s dad was a Yankees fan, and Norman was always a Chicago Cubs fan. His whole family grew up around baseball. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois where baseball was and still is a widely played sport there.

When he first started playing it was just throwing a ball around in his backyard, but as he came to realize that he was good and enjoyed the sport, he wanted to excel. He started playing for his school as soon as he got a chance, and he was a part of the East-West Illinois All-Star throughout his high school career and Duke career as he finished as a record holder there.

He says he was naturally talented, so he never focused on getting better. This attitude stuck until high school rolled around and he was put on the freshman B team. His coach eventually got him training on his own by getting him to hit into a tarp for extra practice.

“I remember I used to hit balls into that tarp for hours,” said Noman.

Norman could hit and throw well, but was never quick on the field, so he moved around from position to position. His first coach put him at shortstop, but in high school he moved to right field.

First base was his favorite position.

“It is more involved in the play and in the outfield it is easy to get distracted,” said Norman. “[At first base] you are almost always apart of the play.”

Duke was always a dream school of his and his high school coach knew the Duke head coach, so he had some connections there. He ended up getting recruited to play for duke, and stayed playing all four years he was there.

“ It was a great opportunity to both play baseball and go to a great school”, said Norman.

He was a first baseman for Duke, and really excelled there. During his senior year at Duke he finished with a .335 batting average, 31 runs, 62 hits, and nine home runs.

“[There’s] nothing quite like hitting a homerun,” he said.

Although the success of his team was important and fun, the best memories he has are the ones made off the field with his teammates.

“Going on road trips, and all kinds of crazy stories, it’s amazing we survived some of the crazy stuff we did, but it was always fun,” he said.

After playing for Duke, Norman had an opportunity to play professionally for the Salt Lake City Trackers, he tried out and was ready to play, but he never followed up. He had a job lined up for him in Washington DC to be a stock broker, but only stayed there for one year.

When he was done working in stocks, he moved back to Durham to help coach at Duke for three years in 1994 while he was getting his masters.

After graduating from Duke again, he found his way to Riverside High School, coaching varsity baseball and teaching social studies.

Norman coached for about a decade and still teaches Civics and Economics, AP Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and AP Psychology. He still keeps in contact with many of his former players, including 2003 graduate Lee Land. Land played varsity all four years of his high school career then went on to play in college and professionally.

He went from Riverside High School, played at Wake Forest, and then got drafted  by the Oakland A’s and played in the minor leagues for the Vancouver Canadians. After one season professionally he followed Norman’s footsteps and started coaching high school teams.

Back when he was one of Norman’s players, Norman would run into the team huddle and do a pop-up slide to celebrate every victory. Now that Lee is coaching his own team, he has continued this tradition and does the same trick whenever his team wins.

“Playing under coach Norman was great,” said Land. “He always kept it light and fun. He also taught, guided, and motivated us.”

One of Norman’s three daughters, Mackenzie,is a freshman at Riverside.

Mackenzie said that as a family they will play wiffle ball in their backyard, which is similar to baseball but the ball is lighter and plastic. They also watch any Cubs games on TV, and have gone to Chicago to watch two of the Cubs games at Wrigley Field.

“My dad’s baseball career has impacted my life and many of the things we do as a family,” she said.

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