A Giant Success: Norton Achieves High Standards Through Constant Work and Dedication
-By Adam Prescott, Otterbein Sports Information
Closing time. A general phrase usually referencing when something closes to the public and it’s time to leave.
For four years, Otterbein senior pitcher Caleb Norton (Lima/Bath) has closed baseball games and sent people home for the day. Standing just 5’5”, Norton may not be what you would expect to see when hearing about one of the top relief pitchers in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
“I’ve never been made fun of for my height, but I’ve definitely noticed people sizing me up (or down) over the years,” said Norton, the shortest pitcher in the OAC. “It’s become a part of me now and I like to own it, because I might not have worked as hard if I were taller. What I lack in height or weight, I try to make up for in speed, determination and consistency. I control what I can control.”
Norton played one season for the Otterbein men’s soccer team as a freshman, starting 13 matches, before transitioning to the baseball diamond where he began playing as an outfielder. By the very end of that spring, he had grinded enough to earn innings on the mound and his efforts convinced the coaching staff that he could serve in the closer role.
Three years later, Norton now stands as Otterbein’s all-time leader in saves (20), career appearances (65) and, potentially, career E.R.A. His nickname of “The Giant,” originally coined by head coach George Powell in 2015, is not just a fun play on his lack of height but also related to the giant heart, work ethic and motivation he holds. Those qualities make it easy for the team to have confidence turning the game over to him late.
“You have to be consistent not just in your physical ability, but also with your mentality,” Cardinal pitching coach John LaCorte explained. “His attitude and effort are always the same and, because of that, his production has almost always been the same. If you’re going to give a guy the ball at the back-end of a bullpen, you can’t have any questions as to what you might get out of him that day. He is consistent in every aspect of his life and it translates onto the baseball field.”
His efforts helped Otterbein go 32-11 last spring and win the OAC regular-season championship outright with a 14-4 mark. The Cardinals have been a regular in the top-25 national poll this season and currently sport a 23-9 record. Entering the final week of April, Norton boasts a 1.59 E.R.A. and is tied for sixth in the country with seven saves.
As consistent as he’s been on the mound, Norton has been even steadier in the classroom by compiling and maintaining a perfect 4.00 grade-point average in allied health. A three-time Academic All-OAC selection, he will head to the University of Dayton in the fall to begin physical therapy school.
“Baseball is great, but academics are allowing me to achieve my dream and start a life after college,” Norton said. “This is a career that I want and my heart is passionate about. I always say that it’s important to start the semester strong and remain consistent throughout, with no drop-offs. The competitor in me has always tried to stay in gear through the tough days, so the end of the semester, the end of a test or the end of a game becomes the easy part.”
In addition to being a teammate or classmate, Norton has also made it easy for people to be his friend. You see, “The Giant” also features a rare charisma and unique personality that makes most people smile during conversation. It’s not unusual to see him willing to serve in any work-study role within the Athletic Department or donate time to a variety of campus projects.
“Playing for this program has been life-changing,” Norton reflected. “This school, and this team, has given me a well-rounded experience and allowed me to impact the community. I’ve been taught how to win the right way and respect both the game itself and the people around you.”
Otterbein hopes Norton’s career doesn’t hit “closing time” until the end of May, but his pitching coach also couldn’t resist one final pun joke when asked about replacing the backbone of their rotation next year.
“There will be some big shoes to fill,” LaCorte said with a smile.