The Lynchburg College baseball program held a signing ceremony on Tuesday to welcome its newest prized recruit to the program: 5-year-old Nathan Norman.
Norman, who will turn 6 in December, isn’t your ordinary recruit. The young man has already demonstrated that he has a strength and determination far beyond that of the average ballplayer or human being.
Norman, whose family lives in Rustburg, was diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 9, 2009, and 11 days later, he had surgery that removed 55 percent of the tumor. The surgery and chemotherapy that lasted from March-August 2009 temporarily stopped the growth of the tumor until October 2011, when it was found the tumor was progressing again.
Doctors also discovered the growth of a tumor on his spinal cord. He had surgery on Nov. 31, 2011 to remove the tumor on his spine and immediately began a round of three different kinds of chemotherapy.
On Sept. 4, 2012, doctors discovered both of the tumors had begun progressing again and Norman was started on a third round of chemotherapy on Sept. 12.
"Right now we are hoping that these drugs stabilize the tumors," Nathan’s mother Dawn said. "He has another scan in November, so we are praying for stability."
Nathan and LC’s head baseball coach, Percy Abell, signed a letter of intent with two stipulations: He had to smile, and had to have fun.
On hand for the signing were Hornets’ players, coaches and cheerleaders; his mother, his father Bobby, his brother Matthew and sisters Tabitha and Sarah.
The plan is for Nathan and his family to come to as practices and to as many games as they can. The players and coaches want to teach him and his siblings to play baseball, feel like a part of the team and get to experience what being part of the team means.
"Sarah, Matthew and Tabitha have been amazing," Dawn said. "They have been a support for him. Nathan gets so much of the attention and they have to be back in the background. The fact that the team and coaches have made a point to pay attention to them and get them involved means so much."
The Norman family and the baseball program were brought together by an organization called Team Impact that primarily operates out of the Northeast. This was the first pairing in Virginia.
"We were really excited to contact the Norman family, to get to know them and have them become a part of this program," Abell said. "We were very excited about getting to start a relationship with them and we want this to be a long-term relationship, to be a part of Nathan’s life for a long time."
Decked out in a Hornets’ jersey, his favorite number (12) and an LC hat, Nathan took some questions, greeted the players, and took some photos after signing his letter of intent.
Though Nathan’s baseball experience has been limited to backyard play with his family, just like every other kid everywhere he wants to swing the bat.
"I like hitting," Nathan said.
Nathan also has already aced his first clubhouse politics test. When asked which Hornets’ player was his favorite, Nathan said "All of them."
"The coaches have been so wonderful," Dawn said. "It has just been like one thing and now you are part of the team. They have been trying to get us involved in everything that we can be a part of and made us feel like a part of the team."