Former Oakland A’s great Mike Norris joins San Pablo Baseball Association

Avaya and Zari, members of the San Pablo Baseball Association (on left) and former Oakland A's pitcher Mike Norris (on right). Photos contributed by the San Pablo Baseball Association

Former Oakland A’s pitching great Mike Norris is all too familiar with the highs and lows of being a famous professional athlete. While he won the Golden Glove award twice and was runner-up for the coveted Cy Young Award during the 1980-81 seasons, injuries, a cocaine addiction and financial troubles interrupted his success on the mound. But not forever.

In more recent years, Norris has been seizing a “golden glove” opportunity to use his experiences — the good and the bad — to teach young people from underserved communities how to shine in life as well as on the baseball diamond.

The star pitcher’s efforts are about to benefit youth in San Pablo.

Last week, the San Pablo Baseball Association, which serves players ages 3 to 14, announced that Norris recently joined its Board of Directors and plans to implement various youth mentoring programs such as a study hall and a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning initiative.

In a partnership formed with Andre Williams, president of the San Pablo Baseball Association, Norris also aims to incorporate financial literacy, charm and etiquette, mental health and other wraparound programs for young ball players, with the aim of ensuring they can succeed outside of baseball.

The program will operate out of the West Contra Costa Salesian Boys and Girls Club, where Williams is athletic director and which has both indoor and outdoor education opportunities.

Andre Williams Sr.

The partnership has been several years coming. Norris is working to expand upon an afterschool program he’s developed through the formation of the Mike Norris Baseball Academy, which plans to employ the wraparound programming as part of a new league operating in 11 underserved cities in the East Bay, San Francisco, Vallejo, Fairfield and Marin City.

The centrally-located West Contra Costa Salesian Boys and Girls Club is slated to be his academy’s hub, Norris said.  In the next several years, Norris is also anticipating construction of a baseball complex on Oakland land deemed as a federal opportunity zone. An opportunity zone allows preferential tax treatment to investments in economically-distressed areas.

Norris’ program fits with the San Pablo Baseball Association like a glove, said Williams. Williams has been aiming to expand opportunities for mentorship and resources for kids at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club, which operates in partnership with the San Pablo Baseball Association. Leading up to Norris’ joining the board of directors, Norris and Williams have already partnered on clinics and picnics for local youth players that have featured visits by other big baseball names such as Shooty Babbit, Joe Morgan, Ty Waller, Vita Blue and Ricky Henderson.

“[Norris] has really been a pleasure to work with,” Williams said, noting in particular his professionalism and ability to communicate with parents. When he was a young player growing up in project housing in San Francisco, Norris says he wished he had access to similar wraparound programs.

“I really love helping these kids,” Norris said. “I grew up in the projects in the Western Addition. I know what poverty is, what poor is, and I wasn’t even in as bad a situation as people who grew up in my neighborhood. I had clothes and a baseball glove.”

Signups for the 2020 San Pablo Baseball Association season are ongoing. The league’s annual Opening Season Parade is set to take place Saturday, April 4.

Additionally, young ballplayers are invited to a free youth baseball clinic this Saturday, Feb. 1, at De Anza High at 10 a.m., led by Diablo Valley College Head Coach Twon Blake. The clinic begins at 10 a.m. and is for children from ages 3 to 15.

For information on how to sign up, see the flier below or visit the San Pablo Baseball Association’s Facebook page for regular updates.