By Kevin Luo
If you signed a multi-million dollar professional sports contract, how would you spend your money? Would you buy a new car or new house? Would you have an extravagant nightlife? What if I told you one young player wants nothing to do with that?
The Blue Jays top pitching prospect, Daniel Norris, signed a contract with a $2 million signing bonus along with a deal with Nike. Norris had the most strikeouts per nine innings pitched in the minors last season, and he has a solid shot to be a part of the Blue Jays’ big-league rotation this year. And you guessed it, he lives in his van.
This past offseason, Norris was living out of his 1978 Volkswagen in the parking lot of a Florida Walmart. The shoppers at the Walmart know him as “Van Man,” and some even give him money, thinking he was poor and homeless. He lives simply and cooks most of his meals on a small, portable grill in his van. He has his millions of dollars with a financial advisor who puts it in safe investments and deposits $800 in his bank account every month, which is just enough for him to live on.
So why would someone who makes millions of dollars as a professional athlete live this way? Norris is committed to being a nonconformist and living the lifestyle he wants to live. He doesn’t drink or smoke. He doesn’t really use technology or watch TV. In the offseason, he still works 40 hours a week at a local clothing store. He takes vacations to areas like the jungles of Nicaragua.
He enjoys being away from the world and just being free to go on his own adventures. Norris was a three-sport athlete in high school, but ultimately, he gravitated toward pitching because it allowed him to be the most secluded. Even further back, Norris gets his nonconformist mentality from his family. His parents and grandparents have owned a small bike shop for decades, and they try to instill an appreciation for the outdoors, living simply and avoiding extravagance.
But here’s the thing. Norris is a nonconformist, but he still loves baseball and does what he can to master his craft. He still works out and makes sure that his athletic performance is in top shape. During the season, he plans on living with some of his teammates. The thought is that if he reaches his potential, he can be a star pitcher in the majors. What happens if that $2 million signing bonus turns into a $100 million deal? Will he still live this simplistic lifestyle?
No matter where Norris goes in his career, right now, he is one of the most interesting players in professional baseball. For as long as it lasts, the public will enjoy seeing him live out of his van, being a man of nature and shaving his beard with a small axe.