When I was a freshman in high school, I joined the Firecrackers softball travel team. I can remember that transition in my life being so new, and scary. I had recently returned to softball after a bout of wanting to be a "normal" teenager and quitting softball. All I knew was that I wanted to be on a good team and be competitive again. Fortunately, I was interested in the Firecrackers, and they were interested in me. After making the team, I was the new kid on the block, and nervous as hell. The Firecrackers were SO good. The hitters in particular were so poised, and polished. I quickly caught on to the fact that they all had this one thing. I needed it.
I was mesmerized. Everybody had their own distinct swing, but the rhythm was the same. The calm and soothing movement of the hitters was something I had never seen before. I had to know more. How did hitting, something I had always made so complicated, suddenly look so simple and effortless? I was quickly pointed in the direction of Norm Perez, our hitting coach.
Fast forward to now. After I heard the news that he had passed away early this morning, a reel of our talks, hugs, laughs, hugs, victories, losses, and everything in between flashed across my eyes. During games, I always liked to head down to his little pop up seat and talk with him. We would shoot the shit and cover a number of topics, from the game, to new shoes coming out, to younger hitters coming up and the dreams he had for my future. I learned about his life, the places he's been and the sport in its entirety. The knowledge that I have learned and experiences that I have shared with this man have absolutely molded me into who I am today. Not only as a hitter, but most importantly as a human being. He had a simple approach, one that confused people because it wasn't overhyped and complicated. His ways of hitting reflected his way of life. Trust your rhythm. He never panicked, or lost his cool. He kept a constant state of thankfulness and happiness- something people rarely contain. Norm's even keel sense of being never waivered, and is something I have always tried to emulate. He saw every type of struggle I encountered, and always reminded me to keep my head and move on with grace. Every stage I could've gone through as a ball player, whether it was in the dugout with me or states away watching, he was there. He helped me grow into a strong, relentless, passionate, and confident player and woman.
I want to teach like Norm did. I want to love, and guide like he did. I want to SIMPLIFY, and LIVE like he did.
I wish I kept up on our phone calls. I wish I hugged you tighter and talked with you longer that last visit at the warehouse. As I am thinking of him, I can literally feel his hug. You know those hugs where they rub your back a little bit to let you know they are REALLY hugging you? Every action he took had a purpose, even if it was as little as a hug.
Norm, you played a huge part in my life as a coach, a mentor, and a friend. I will forever remember our phone calls that were rarely about softball, but mostly about life. You taught me to 'never trust no one.' Funny thing is, I trusted you from the moment I met you.
With your Raybans and Nikes on, I know you will spit some knowledge on them up there. You are the greatest of all time, and will never be forgotten.
I love you so much Normy. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.