Aug. 25, 2009

By Sean Duncan, Prep Baseball Report

To fully comprehend Adam Norton’s baseball accomplishments, to completely appreciate his four state records he broke and all his other remarkable hitting and pitching statistics, you first must understand Adam Norton as a teammate.

As a freshman standout on varsity, Norton barely said a peep. He instead let his bat do the talking, hitting an amazing .524 with 48 RBI. As the years passed, his reputation grew, along with his hit totals. Nevertheless, after each home game, Norton would be the last player to be raking the field, making sure the surface was perfect for the next day. In the fall, Indiana’s all-time hits leader insisted he cut the field’s grass.

“I’m not the type of person to walk over and tell a freshman to go rake the field,” Norton said. “I felt like I needed to clean it up, it was my responsibility. It’s just part of being on a team. You’ve got to pull weeds, rake the field. That’s what you have to do.”

BY THE NUMBERS: Adam Norton emerged as one of the best offensive players in Indiana high school history. He broke three career records: total hits (202), RBI (183) and doubles (65). Norton holds 17 different school records at Andrean.

Above all his accomplishments, Norton was the best teammate Dave Pishkur has coached in his illustrious career at Andrean High School.

“He’s such a team player,” Pishkur said. “I don’t think there’s any one thing that makes him so good. He does everything so well, and he just plays the game so hard. There’s not any part in his game that I won’t miss.”

But let’s face it, being a good teammate doesn’t break state records. Which brings us to the real reason why the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Norton earned the Prep Baseball Report Player of the Year honors; the kid has game. Lots of it. At the plate, on the mound, in the field, in the dugout, Norton did it all in leading Andrean to the Class 3A state championship and the overall No. 1 ranking in the state.

In his senior season of his four-year storied career, Norton batted .550 with a school-record 55 RBI and 45 runs. Of his 60 hits, 39 were for extra bases, including an astounding 30 doubles, which shattered the previous state record of 27. He also had five homers, four triples and a slugging percentage of 1.037.

“Adam had worked hard in the offseason, so I knew he was going to have a good season,” Pishkur said. “But 30 doubles? Come on, no one can expect that. It seemed like every ball he hit was a double.”

What’s perhaps even a more remarkable statistic than his 30 doubles was Norton only struck out once, and that was during a 1-for-12 stretch to open the season.

“One strikeout is a pretty crazy number, but even in the summer I don’t swing and miss very much,” Norton said. “I think it’s some of the things I used to do with my dad when I was younger….I do swing at bad pitches but I’m able to hit them.”

Norton has done nothing but hit since he enrolled at the Merrilville school. He earned All-State honors as a freshman after he batted .524 with 48 RBI, five homers and broke the school record with 54 hits. After enduring what Norton called a “sophomore slump” – which for him was a .390 batting average – he finished his junior campaign with a .446 batting average, 38 RBI, 16 doubles and four homers.

Add all four years together and you have one of the most prolific hitters in state history. Norton heads to Notre Dame in the fall with three career state records: total hits (202), RBI (183) and doubles (65).

But hold on. Norton’s offensive conquests were only half of his story. Hard to fathom, but the right-hander was equally dominant on the mound. Norton posted a 9-0 record, which included eight complete games, a 1.45 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 53 innings this spring.

Prior to the season, however, Norton wasn’t even sure if he was going to pitch because of unidentifiable elbow pain.

“It happened sometime in the winter,” said Norton, who didn’t throw for about two months. “I didn’t know what it was, but it just wasn’t right.” For a player who never complains about anything, Norton’s elbow – which checked out fine in an MRI – had Pishkur on high alert.

“We had no idea if he needed surgery,” Pishkur said. “I think there was an unknown factor where he didn’t know what it was but it still hurt.”

A specialist advised to throw through it and gauge the pain. Eventually, the pain dissipated, and Norton made his first start on April 20. He didn’t throw again until May 5. After that, it was smooth sailing, as he registered all complete games, including four of Andrean’s six playoff victories, capped by a 6-3 win over West Vigo in the Class 3A championship game at Victory Field.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Norton, who finished with a career 27-6 record. “There’s not a better feeling to go out on top.

“Some of the numbers ten, twenty years from now will be pretty cool. But the best part for me is just the time I got to spend with the guys on the team, the friends I’ve made and the people I’ve played with. Of my 18 years, my time at Andrean is the greatest four years I’ve ever had.”

— ND —