Norris chats with pals over coffee on 'The Drip'

Lefty hosts Instagram live show each Thursday at 10 a.m. ET

May 5th, 2020

The waves were good for surfing at an empty beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast last week as walked in from the water and grabbed his phone. The Tigers left-hander found a good, quiet spot with trees in the background and logged into his Instagram to find an old friend.

At the same time, Shane Greene was waiting in the drive-thru line at Starbucks near his central Florida home, grabbing his second coffee of the day. The former Tigers closer and current Braves reliever was running behind schedule, but he needed his brew after a morning workout. If he was going to be on a talk show called The Drip, he wanted to be true to the premise.

As Greene grabbed his vanilla cream cold brew and found a parking spot, he logged into Instagram and found Norris. For nearly a half hour, the two shared memories as Tigers teammates, with a couple inside jokes mixed in. They talked about the day Greene was traded last summer and how Greene was told of the trade as he stepped out of the shower. They also discussed the mental approach they took in their respective comebacks from injury, the work they’re putting in these days to keep their arms fresh waiting for baseball to come back and the impact Greene had on the Tigers' pitching staff.

It sounded like two old friends catching up on social media, reconnecting amid the coronavirus pandemic. But that was the kind of show that fits Norris’ style, the show he had in mind when the Tigers reached out with the idea.

“It's obviously weird times right now,” Norris said, “so they're trying to keep people involved. And I said, 'Yeah, it's cool.' I drink coffee every day. I think it's been cool to catch up with everybody to talk coffee and life and everything.”

The coffee tie-in, the reason the show is called The Drip, refers to the pourover coffeemaker Norris set up in his locker last season and at Spring Training this year. Norris has had an interest in coffee, and he found a kindred spirit when Tyson Ross joined the Tigers' rotation last year and moved into the locker next to his.

Once Ross’ season ended with injury, Norris kept up the tradition. What began as a pick-me-up each day became a way to bond with teammates, turning his locker into a gathering spot. By this spring, close to a dozen players and staff members had turned Norris’ locker into their regular coffee spot.

“I have that little cafe in my locker in the season,” Norris said, “so this is just trying to recreate that while we’re all separated. I think coffee brings people together. You go to a café, and people talk over coffee.”

In some ways, Norris’ show -- which goes live on his Instagram account each Thursday at 10 a.m. ET -- is the baseball equivalent of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Greene’s appearance last week was the second episode. The first featured Norris’ current Tigers teammate and java aficionado Brandon Dixon. Both had a cup of joe as they talked from their home bases on opposite coasts about their baseball experiences, coffee choices, and then about barefoot hiking, surfing and cliff jumping during their offseason trip to Hawaii last fall.

“We start out with a few generic questions, kind of, 'What coffee you drink?' and whatever, and then it turns to, 'What's going on right now?'” Norris said. “We get into baseball and we get into life and way of thinking, sort of like that. I have a few questions, but then it turns into a hangout conversation, which I like.”

That’s the other draw about Norris’ show, his interesting life on and off the field. Though the former Blue Jays prospect once drew attention for staying in a van one Spring Training in Jays camp, his recent offseason travels have left teammates and fans jealous. He has surfed in Central America, up and down the West Coast and into Florida. He made a film with Ben Moon while driving his van from his Tennessee home out to Oregon. He has spent the past few offseasons in Southern California, training at a facility and surfing the Pacific.

More recently, Norris’ photography has drawn acclaim, including a portrait of Hall of Famer Al Kaline. The photos originally attracted him to Instagram. Now, the man who is used to getting questions about life and philosophy is asking them.

As Norris eagerly awaits baseball’s return, he’s still trying to keep things interesting. Still at his Spring Training apartment in Tampa, Fla., he throws off a mound twice a week at a nearby facility and works out other days at a friend’s makeshift garage gym.

A couple days a week when Norris isn’t throwing, he gets up by sunrise and crosses the state to an isolated surf spot near Cocoa Beach, where he can find waves while still practicing social distancing.

“I've never been able to surf in April, ever,” Norris said, “so it's nice being able to surf in board shorts rather than a wet suit. It's been nice to be able to get my work in and know I have some play time when I get done. I've never had a bad day in the water.”

Still, Norris is hoping for better days when he can get on a mound in a game again. Once the season appears closer to resuming, he plans to ramp up his throwing.

“We just want to play,” Norris said. “We've obviously heard all the scenarios and we get excited about them. It's more just kind of honing in your thoughts and waiting for something to get rock solid.”