Mariners scouting fable Wayne Norton battles ALS with courage, grace

June 11, 2016 - als

When Wayne Norton was diagnosed final Jun with ALS — a dreaded Lou Gehrig’s illness — he knew that he was in for a plea of a lifetime.

He also knew that he wanted — indispensable — to continue to executive round players, that Norton has finished with skill, unrestrained and, yes, love, for many of his life, a final 16 years for a Mariners as their Canadian supervisor.

So that’s precisely what Norton has finished — with limitations, sure, yet also with bravery and grace, even as his physique endures a ravages of a on-going neurodegenerative disease.

“It’s partial of my rehabbing to contend I’m still means to do something,’’ pronounced Norton, 73, whose voice competence vary slightly, yet whose passion comes by shrill and clear.

Norton contingency be fed by a tube 3 times a day, yet he has finally been privileged to eat soothing foods, a godsend. Now when he goes to a round game, as Norton has finished thousands of times over a years, he sits in a wheelchair, and his mother of 53 years, Trudy — this is her story, too — binds a radar gun and stopwatch, and forms adult a actor evaluations.

“I can commend a fastball now unequivocally well,’’ jokes Trudy, who met Wayne in high propagandize in their local Port Moody, British Columbia, where they still reside. “A bend or a changeup, they’re still a bit subtle.”

Other scouts, to whom Norton prolonged ago became a fable in his homeland, representation in as many as they can to make a logistics some-more manageable.

But Norton’s round instincts and penetrating observational skills are undiminished. When a Mariners convened final week to ready for a pledge draft, they pored over Norton’s reports, usually as they have finished for scarcely dual decades. He has sealed countless players for a ballclub, from Michael Saunders to Tyler O’Neill.

“He doesn’t skip anything,’’ pronounced Tom McNamara, a Mariners’ scouting director. “He’s promulgation me updated emails about his guys. It’s a grub for him, yet he’s a tough, tough guy.”

“He has no time to plead his limitations,’’ pronounced long-time crony Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s executive of inhabitant teams. “Once you’re around him, we don’t consider about them for a minute. He stays sharp, sensitive and entirely invested. Wayne is a round man. He doesn’t wish sympathy.”

There were doubts during initial either Norton could keep scouting. But a family satisfied fast that doing so would be healing — and holding his passion divided competence be debilitating.

“As distant as he was concerned, that was unequivocally a idea for him,’’ Trudy Norton said. “That has been a carrot on a stick.”

Virtually each Canadian to go by a Mariners’ organization, and many players from Europe — also Norton’s domain until a ALS exceedingly singular his transport capabilities — have Norton’s stamp, from first-rounder Phillippe Aumont to Alex Liddi and a late Greg Halman.

Pitchers Bobby Madritsch and George Sherrill, sealed out of eccentric leagues, were his, too. One year, 3 of Baseball America’s tip 10 prospects were Norton guys. Norton is anxious these days to follow a arise of tip Mariners’ awaiting O’Neill from Burnaby, B.C., a Norton signee from 2013, and pitcher Dylan Unsworth from Durban, South Africa, who recently done a Southern League All-Star team.

“When we got this pursuit (in 2009) and altered out here, Wayne was one of a initial people we spent time with,’’ McNamara said. “He gave me a unequivocally easy feeling that we have Canada covered. I’m not going to remove nap we’re going to get burnt in Canada.”

But final spring, usually as credentials for a breeze was heating up, all changed. There had been some pointed warning signs for about 4 years, mobility issues that finally led Norton to revisit a neurologist in March. That’s when a ghost of ALS was initial raised.

Then, on May 3, 2015, Norton fell and pennyless his hip. While in a hospital, he grown end pneumonia, heading to tests that dynamic Norton had amyotrophic parallel sclerosis — ALS, a illness that leads to on-going lapse of a engine neutrons.

Friends and colleagues are vacant during a certain opinion confirmed by Norton, notwithstanding such a harmful diagnosis. Norton doesn’t like to plead his disease. He’d rather speak baseball.

“That’s a usually opinion we can take,’’ he said. “You’ve got to be positive. we work on strengthening my muscles. That’s what I’ve been adult to, perplexing not to let my muscles deteriorate.”

Norton walks in a pool 3 times a week, and goes for strolls outward when he can regulating a walker. After 6 months of earthy therapy, he’s even means to get adult stairs — solemnly and with help.

“When he came home from a hospital,’’ Trudy said, “Wayne was very, really weak. Everyone has been really gratified with his progress.”

The new ability to eat of soothing dishes like pudding and scrambled eggs has authorised Norton some-more coherence to executive around Vancouver. He even done a 220-mile outing to Kamloops this open to see a tournament.

“The Mariners have been really good about gripping me on even yet I’m limited in my travel,’’ he said.

Norton is some-more resourceful in a events he attends, focusing on sold players he wants to see. But he stays as sensitive as probable on all a Canadian prospects. During a new contest in a Dominican Republic, Hamilton had countless phone conversations with Norton to plead players.

“I devise on doing this as prolonged as we can,’’ Norton said.

And Trudy will be there each step of a way. It has been a round life for her, from Wayne’s days personification round during Whitworth College in Spokane, to his 10-year minor-league career as an outfielder in a A’s organization, where he played with a likes of Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue and Tony La Russa. Norton strike 107 home runs and modernized as high as Class AAA.

“He talks about perseverance,’’ Trudy said, “and what we see is roughly a dumping of his integrity and competitiveness that was always there from his jaunty days and scouting, now destined toward ALS.”

For a bulk of Wayne’s career, Trudy Norton frequency went on scouting ventures with her husband, solely for a outing to Europe when they were accompanied by tighten friends Pat and Doris Gillick.

But now Trudy is a tie during a ballpark. In an essay for a Canadian Baseball Network, Trudy wrote: “I have to giggle during a fact that, during 73, we am sitting behind home image with these guys, holding a stopwatch and radar gun, checking out keen, immature athletes, commenting on a ‘good body’ or ‘quick hands.’ You never know what life binds in store!”

Trudy had prolonged helped form adult Wayne’s reports. “I’ve been a secretary for a while; I’ve usually combined to my pursuit description,’’ she pronounced cheerfully over a phone. “I’m a drudge that binds a radar gun and stopwatch and writes down a times.”

Also lending useful assistance are Norton’s daughter, Elizabeth, who lives with her relatives (along with her fiancé), and son Steve and his wife, who live in Kimberly. The Nortons have 3 grandchildren.

When his personification days ended, Norton enthralled himself in a pledge round stage in Canada as a coach, director and owner of a National Baseball Institute, before Gillick brought him into Seattle’s overlay in 2000. Virtually each good Canadian player, from Larry Walker to Corey Koskie to Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie, has some tie to Norton.

“These kids demeanour during Wayne like their grandfather,’’ McNamara said. “They don’t wish to let him down. The kids in Canada always spin it adult a nick when Wayne is during a game.”

Next weekend, on Jun 18 in St. Marys, Ontario, a Canadian round investiture will get to uncover their adore and love for Norton when he is inducted into a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. It will his initial craft moody in a year, that Norton admits will be “a bit of a exam for me.”

But many to a family’s gratitude, a ALS Society has chipped in to assistance outfit a hotel in St. Marys with a apparatus he needs. And Norton wasn’t going to skip this for a world. As many as a endowment itself, he said, it’s a honour and approval from his peers that moves him.

“That’s really critical to me,’’ he said.

And then, shortly thereafter, you’ll no doubt find Norton in his common mark – during a round field, examination ballgames, and scouting ballplayers.

“What we find interesting,’’ Trudy Norton said, “”is that he always refers to himself as an ‘old-school guy.’ He knows a stats, yet he still refers to his gut-feel guys. He had some gut-feel guys in this draft.’’

And, let’s hope, for many drafts to come.

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