Norris adds 'barista' to impressive resume

Love of coffee leads lefty to offer choice brews in clubhouse

February 16th, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The coffee pot sits inside ’ locker every morning. It’s usually about empty by the time the Tigers take the field at Tigertown to work out. Teammate Michael Fulmer, who has the locker next to Norris, still hasn’t tried it because it’s gone by the time he grabs his post-workout java.

“I don’t know if it’s any different from the coffee in there,” Fulmer said, referring to the food room.

Manager Ron Gardenhire can attest that it’s different. Gardenhire accidentally grabbed a cup of Norris’ coffee blend last season when it was sitting in the clubhouse food room at Comerica Park. It didn’t cause the allergic reaction that knocked him out of a game last May, but it was strong.

“That made my lips curl,” Gardenhire joked. “Once I drank that coffee, there was something in it that caused my face [to contort].”

For Tigers players, though, it’s a popular brew. And Norris, whose energy and enthusiasm have always been contagious, is now literally a source of energy around the clubhouse.

Baseball player. Surfer. Photographer. Barista?

“Except I don’t know how to make cappuccinos,” Norris said. “I just like coffee. That would be cool, though.”

Norris has always been a coffee aficionado. He likes to find independent coffee shops on the road, and he has been known to stop in the coffee houses of Royal Oak while the Tigers are at home. He and ex-teammate Tyson Ross began the concept of an in-house coffee machine last season, setting up a pour-over coffee maker in Matt Moore’s old locker.

A handful of teammates picked up on the concept and started asking for cups. The coffee made the locker into a hangout.

“Especially day games, in the morning, guys would all kind of circle around and just chat,” Norris said.

When the season ended and Norris went out to California for his workouts, he picked up some new brews and ordered more to bring to Lakeland.

The coffee is not for the faint of heart. It’s stronger and tastes a tad more acidic, partly for the beans, partly for the pour-over method Norris uses to capture more flavor.

“This is like a shower head instead of spigot,” Norris said. “It just gets all the beans.”

Norris does not brew the coffee on game days when he’s scheduled to pitch. But for these early days of camp, it’s not a worry. The only limit each morning is that he has a small coffee maker and a cluttered locker, so he can only make so much. Thus, unlike the many coffee shops of Lakeland, the hours at Café Norris are short.

Don’t mess with Tigers’ signs

The Tigers had a heads-up about mixing their signs when facing the Astros thanks to Mike Fiers in 2018, so don’t expect big changes from the team in light of Major League Baseball’s report.

“We change our signs all the time during the course of the year,” Gardenhire said. “We have multiple signs. There’s times when we’ll put up a number and we’re using that number that day.

“We have multiple signs. We’re always changing them. If we feel somebody’s getting them, we will really [mess] with them. We’ll put on signs and let them get them, and then we won’t do it. It’s a constant. That’s been [a part of] baseball as long as I’ve been here.”

Quick hits

• Tigers pitchers took a break from mound sessions Sunday to take bunting practice. In most cases, it wasn’t pretty.

“I took a glance over there, almost started to step on the field, and just turned and walked [away],” Gardenhire said. “I’m in a good frame of mind right now, and I did not want to get into a bad frame of mind.”

• The Tigers are expected to hold their annual open tryout camp once again, sometime in early March. The date has yet to be set. Traditionally, it has been held on the first Monday in March.