Selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft out of Goddard High School in Kansas, Derek Norris has done one thing consistently well in the Minor Leagues: get on base. Since debuting 2007, he has drawn 267 walks in 326 games, posting a .414 on-base percentage.
Norris slumped in 2010, however. While leading the Carolina League with 89 walks, he batted .235 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs in 94 games for Class A Advanced Potomac. He missed a week after being struck in the head by a pitch on May 21.
Norris rebounded in the playoffs, batting .269 with a league-leading eight runs scored as the Nationals captured the Mills Cup. The 21-year-old catcher continued to thrive in the elite Arizona Fall League, driving in 19 runs and tying for second wiht a .667 slugging percentage. Now, a month into his offseason, he took time to answer some questions for MiLB.com.
MiLB.com: What aspect of your game are you most proud of?
Norris: I want to be proud of everything. I have a lot of pride in my defense this year. It's a little behind my offense at this point, but I take pride in my defense the most. I made strides in all aspects.
MiLB.com: What would you tell people who see your .235 average and think you had a disappointing season?
Norris: I would probably just say things mentally got into my head, some injuries and mental issues got into my head. Some things combined into a mental haze and I struggled to get through this. The last few weeks, I went to the man upstairs and I felt more comfortable.
MiLB.com: What is your favorite Minor League ballpark to play in as a visitor?
Norris: So far, Greensboro (NewBridge Bank Park) in the South Atlantic League. It's a beautiful ballpark. I enjoyed playing there.
MiLB.com: What's your favorite place to eat when you're on the road?
Norris: A good Waffle House, they have a good selection of everything, especially at 11:30 at night when nothing else is open. I just try to mix it up and go for everything on the menu.
MiLB.com: What teammate is the biggest practical joker?
Norris: Michael Guerrero. He can pretty much imitate any voice or action that anyone in organization can do. That's what makes him funny.
MiLB.com: What aspect of your game are you trying to improve upon heading into 2011?
Norris: Definitely my defense. I feel like I fixed a few things in my swing, but my defense, I always want to keep improving on it. Ultimately, that's what matters most being in the National League.
MiLB.com: What is your favorite off-day activity?
Norris: Xbox. My favorite game is Halo, any type of Halo game. The new Call of Duty is in my Xbox right now. I play with most of my teammates. A.J. Morris is probably the best.
MiLB.com: What are you looking forward to most in the offseason?
Norris: Just being able to spend time with my family. Getting two holidays to spend with them and being in Arizona 'til mid-November, I'm looking forward to spending time with them.
MiLB.com: What has been the biggest moment of your pro career?
Norris: Definitely winning the Carolina League championship, that was pretty special.
MiLB.com: What's the best advice you've received as a pro?
Norris: Probably from Pudge (Rodriguez) on receiving and how to hold your glove in Spring Training [last year]. This year, we'll have Pudge and (Jesus) Flores all there, so I think I'll be able to get some information from them if I ask for it.