Skilled baseball pitcher Daniel Norris says music impressed him to stay on the highway.
Rising up in Johnson Metropolis, Tenn., Norris was captivated by singer Jack Johnson’s songs about quirky tenting adventures in a VW bus. The music left such a robust impression that Norris, at 18 years previous, bought his personal 1978 VW Westfalia microbus with cash earned from his first skilled baseball signing bonus.
“Considered one of [Johnson’s] songs talks about him and his spouse in London, and so they had an previous VW,” mentioned Norris, now 26. “That impressed me at an early age to type my very own rendition of that way of life.”
Even after years of regular employment in skilled baseball—first with the Toronto Blue Jays, and shifting to the Detroit Tigers in 2015—Norris swears by van life. The pitcher nonetheless makes time exterior of his busy baseball schedule to camp out of his van, nicknamed “Shaggy,” for weeks and even months at a time within the offseason.
“I actually simply benefit from the solitude of it,” he mentioned. “It replenishes me earlier than a giant season.”
For Norris, it’s a ritual of his personal; the athlete grabs his surfboard, the naked necessities, and hits the highway. He’ll sleep on seashores, in Walmart parking heaps or deep within the wilderness. The minimalist way of life would possibly conflict with prosperous stereotypes about skilled athletes, however Norris says his journeys maintain him centered whereas juggling a profitable profession and main league stardom.
“I wished to hone in on staying true to who I used to be,” he defined. “Now that I’ve extra, I need to have much less.”
Norris first met Shaggy by connecting with an proprietor two hours from his house. The automotive was not initially on the market, although Norris couldn’t assist however attempt to purchase it anyway. He liked its smooth cream-colored coat and was notably impressed by its drive-ready situation with minimal rust.
“Every thing was unique, which I actually dug about it,” he recalled. “It was a no brainer.”
Norris made a persuasive supply and renovated his new automotive into the travel-ready house he dreamed of. From Tennessee, he drove Shaggy to Florida for spring coaching. As a substitute of taking a lodge room with the remainder of his teammates, he’d discover appropriate lodging round city—that’s, people who tolerated his scrappy way of life.
“I might get kicked off the seaside fairly a number of instances,” he mentioned. “One time, I made a decision to park on the Blue Jays’ complicated. In all probability, at like 11:30 or 12:00 that night time, I get a knock on the window, and it’s the cops.” Fortunately, the encounter ended amicably.
“There have been 5 cops, and so they all began laughing after they realized who I used to be. Asking me questions like, ‘Why do you do that?’” he mentioned. “It was form of humorous.”
For years, Norris and Shaggy have been practically inseparable within the offseason. To the amusement of his teammates, Norris insisted on driving Shaggy down for his seasonal Florida journeys. However despite the fact that the decades-old automotive endured yr after yr of cross-country marathon drives, Norris knew Shaggy would quickly attain its limits.
Shaggy broke down thrice throughout a 2015 journey from Tennessee to Oregon. The second time, Norris blew the third cylinder in Kansas. He discovered a mechanic in Denver who might repair it, however to get there Norris needed to drive his beloved automotive for eight hours at 35 mph. Shaggy lasted yet one more day earlier than it failed once more.
“It was fairly gnarly,” he remembered fondly. “I’m very lucky for these experiences. I believe they’ve helped mildew me as an individual.”
As he’s tacked on extra miles, Norris has gotten handier, too. He handles fast fixes with duct tape and zip ties whereas studying extra about Shaggy’s long-term repairs.
“I like the thought of fixing it myself,” he mentioned. “My dad’s the toughest employee I’ve ever met, so he’s impressed me to relish these alternatives.”
Now in his eighth yr with Shaggy, and fifth season with the Tigers, Norris takes his Westfalia to the shores of South Carolina, a five- to six-hour drive from Tennessee. He’s acquired the system down—he downsizes greater than he used to, and is aware of to carry out upkeep checks earlier than every main drive. Journeys have shortened lately, although Norris doesn’t plan on abandoning van life anytime quickly.
“I plan on having it my complete life,” he mentioned. “It helped me discover myself in some ways. It means so much to me.”