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Big League Dreams: John Norwood

A Look at Chinooks in the Minor Leagues

John Norwood – Miami Marlins – Batavia Muckdogs (A)

One of the most physically impressive athletes to wear a Chinook uniform may have been Vanderbilt’s John Norwood, who played on the 2013 Lakeshore team that won the second half South Division Championship.

Upon arriving to Mequon in June that year, Norwood stepped off the plane, checked out his gear, and immediately went to the batting cages. The speedy and powerful outfielder was looking to improve his hitting consistency through regular at-bats during the Northwoods League’s daily schedule after being used mostly as a defensive replacement for the Commodores. With an abundance of talent, Norwood had been encouraged to step up his game in order to pursue his professional dream.

Norwood & Koehlers_webJohn with his mother Paula Burroughs and his Chinooks host family, 
CJ Koehler (far left) and Mark Koehler (far right).

Mark Koehler, John’s host dad, recalls: “One of the first things we did was go to Form & Fitness to get him registered so he could work out there. And work out he did. Typically he liked to work out after the games, which after road trips meant he would go in the early morning hours. I thought, wow, this kid is really committed and wants to get better.” Norwood hit just .240 that summer, but gained valuable experience against top level pitchers in the NWL and amazed Chinook fans with his powerful arm and knack for making big plays in the field.

After his season in Mequon, Norwood returned to Vandy with hopes for a big season and possibly being drafted again. He had been drafted in the 12th Round of the 2011 MLB draft by Toronto, but chose to attend college. That decision paid off as Norwood blasted a game-winning homerun against Virginia to clinch Vanderbilt’s 2014 NCAA Championship and made Norwood an instant ESPN superstar. The Koehler family kept close tabs on John throughout the season and while John’s career seemed to be stalled at one point, a late season visit from the family seemed to help Norwood as he got hot at the right time. Mark comments “Looking back you could see John had the tools, skills and desire to make it.” He just needed a team to see that. Despite being overlooked in the draft, Norwood signed a free agent contract in early August 2014 with the Miami Marlins to keep his professional dreams alive.

Norwood made his debut in late August with the Marlins’ Class A affiliate, the Batavia Muckdogs, and hit .254 in 20 games and then spent the fall with the Marlin’s Arizona League. Lakeshore skipper Eddy Morgan comments, “If John takes a mature, professional approach to the game, he certainly has all the physical skills that baseball scouts look for and can have a bright future.” A little seasoning and experience may be all that Norwood needs!