Child abuse past leads Norman to trust in God
When Les Norman was growing up, his days consisted of an abusive father and family fighting which left him feeling hopeless and led him to alcohol abuse on a downhill slide.
Norman's life later became about baseball and after a long series of learning curves, he grew to know what really counted in his life and hit his true home run as he found a relationship with God.
Norman has since been using his life lessons as a motivational speaker and spent his day in Beloit on Monday, speaking with area schools. The Beloit United Methodist Church presented Norman as the featured speaker during the Men and Boys Rally in the evening along with a special appearance from Great Plains Conference Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the Southwestern College singers.
Men and Boys Rally member, Ron Marozas, introduced Norman to the North Central Kansas Technical College assembly on Monday afternoon.
Norman conquered his childhood after finding a passion in baseball. He earned a Junior Olympic gold Medal and played Major League Baseball. Along with his syndicated sports radio show, "Breakin' the Norm", heard weekly, his high presentations have inspired others to be what they never imagined they could be.
A short video clip showing Norman at bat for a Kansas City Royals triple hit was shown before Norman began to speak.
Norman, dressed in his No. 25 Royals jersey, opened with stating that he grew up with baseball as his passion but there are two things he wished he could do in life as well.
"Number one, I wish I could fix things," said Norman. "Fix a car, rewire a house. I can barely get dressed in the morning without the help from my wife, he laughed. Number two, I wish I was musical in some way."
"We all have things we wish we could do" said Norman. "But we all have abilities that we can do."
Growing up, Norman's father was very abusive. When he arrived home from school, his parents would be fighting. He started avoiding the situation by going to the baseball field to watch the kids play.
"I was four foot, nine inches and so I was usually bullied and chased home. Let alone, I was gifted with the name, Leslie Eugene (not the norm) Norman ( the name of a cow on a movie), laughed Norman. "I lived in a population of 2000 people in Braidwood, Ill. with 280 kids and so you were either an athlete or a book worm or you hung outside and became involved in drugs and such. The baseball players identity was that of the athletic kids."
Norman was not allowed to play baseball until one day when their numbers were low and they asked him to fill in.
"This was my first sense of belonging and when my passion for baseball came about," said Norman.
One day, when Norman went home at the age of 12, he was greeted by his mom who told him his dad was gone and was never coming back.
"I remember thinking, this was going to be the best day of my life," said Norman. "It just goes to show you how it is for some of us. There would be no more days of gathering a switch to be beaten with because something wasn't done exactly right, seen from his drunken eyes."
With the news, Norman's life went on but not without consequences. Although his abusive dad was gone, the scars were left behind leaving bitterness and a struggle with an identity in life.
"I remember thinking that if I ever saw him again, that I would beat him within an inch of his life," said Norman.
That side of Normans bitterness became hidden inside the sport of baseball.
"Somewhere along the line, we buy into the outlook of others and sometimes for that, we look into the mirror and don't quite like what we see," Norman, now 49, said.
Upon high school graduation, Norman earned a Junior Olympic North Team gold medal and received a scholarship to play baseball at the University of St. Francis, Ill. There, he became a two-time NAIA All-American.
After his successful college career, Norman was offered $2,000 to sign with Boston.
"The guy I worshipped was who I saw in the mirror," said Norman. "The jersey made me who I was and I thought I was worth more than that."
Norman was again offered to sign with Boston with an offer that had climbed to $30,000. His answer remained the same.
"After I turned them down again, I was told that maybe I just wasn't Red Sox material," said Norman. "I started playing summer baseball and I went from my senior year as one of the best players to the worse player, pouring myself into drinking. Yet when I looked in the mirror, I was that empty guy."
Later, Norman was offered that same $2,000 offer from the Royals.
"I didn't hesitate," Norman said. "I quickly signed the contract and I learned a big lesson."
Norman's lessons would continue as he entered the Major Leagues tryouts. He was not use to the bats.
"I thought I was a stud, but I couldn't even hit to the infield, Norman said.
One day when Norman was going into a slide, he separated his shoulder and was most likely going to be sent home.
"I was taking 16-20 Advil a day for pain to avoid being released," said Norman.
After a dive for a ball and a torn rotator cuff that did major damage, Norman was at a loss.
"My steal shield (my jersey) was just a torn piece of paper," said Norman. "I was sitting in the club house with my arm in a sling and had a realization that this game I had worshipped, had gone on without me. Family and friends, news media stopped talking to me. I felt like I was owed something at age 22 years old."
"I worshipped it all, nothing gave back, I used the victim card and said I was finished with it all," Norman said. " I would look for an escape through alcohol."
During this time, Norman had watched New York Yankee Bobby Meacham after games. He watched how he had a joy on his face and greeted and hugged his wife and children after the games.
On that particular day when Norman was at his worse, sitting in the club house, Meacham had come back to retrieve his line up card.
"He never forgot his card," said Norman. "I decided to ask him what it was about him because I was dying inside. He had integrity, he had faith and he cared about people. He told me God created us. Baseball is just what we do, not who we are."
At that moment, Norman said he started to share a personal relationship with God. At the time he was worried he would be dropped.
"Once they fix you up, they can release you," said Norman. "They only had $2,000 invested in me."
Norman healed and when in spring training, two players got hurt and he received a second chance. He decided he was going to live for his Creator, not his jersey.
"I was done living for me," said Norman. "My eyes were opened to something I never had before. My value was in Him, not in my profession. Baseball became truly fun for the first time in my life."
Norman started cheering on all of the players. With 25 spots on the team, 80 guys are vying for three spots. A year and a half later, Norman was playing in the Major Leagues with the Kansas City Royals baseball team.
"I am living the dream right now," said Norman. "It's not about the jersey now. My job is to be the best husband I can be, the best dad I can be, the best human being I can be. I played the victim card a long time. I trusted the game, I trusted the alcohol, I trusted myself. Now I have trust in God."
"Don't ever think the odds are against you," said Norman. "Odds don't exist. I am excited to be here to talk today. Behind every face here, something is unfolding. You have been gifted to do some really neat things in life. Don't ever get to the point of looking at odds."
To see more about Norman's story go to www.lesnorman.com
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