Most European baseball fans may not know him, but the person who scouted several European players for the Mariners has passed away. Wayne Norton scouted Italy’s own Alex Liddi and Dutchies like Greg Halman, Kalian Sams and Tom de Blok. Norton died as the result of ALS.
Wayne Norton was a career minor leaguer who was originally signed by the Yankees but was sent to the Kansas City Athletics. After ten years of playing in the minor leagues, in which he reached AAA but just could not make the last step, his career in baseball was far from over.
That was only the start of his baseball career as he was technical director of Baseball BC (British Columbia) in the early 1970s and the 1980s. He oversaw the development of training manuals and managed team Canada at the 1975 Pan American Games. He came up with the idea of junior national team and in 1986 he was one of the founders of the National Baseball Institute, which kept Canadian Talent at home.
Then he turned to scouting and became a scout for the Montreal Expos, the Baltimore Orioles and since 2000 for the Seattle Mariners. After he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), his wife supported him so he could keep scouting for the M’s.
Norton discovered several big leaguers like George Sherrill (who had a nine-year MLB career with the Mariners, the Orioles, the Dodgers and the Braves), Bobby Madritsch (who spent parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the Mariners) and Michael Saunders (debuted in the Majors in 2009 with the Mariners but also played with the Blue Jays and the Phillies).
But next to these Major Leaguers, Norton also discovered quite some European players. Alex Liddi (debuted with the M’s in 2011 and played parts of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons in the Majors), Greg Halman (debuted with the Mariners in 2010 and played 44 games for the team).
Norton also signed several players who never made it to the Bigs. Dutch players like Tom de Blok (who went home after two weeks in the DSL but who had a helluva season in the Tigers’ farm system in 2017), Scott Ronnenbergh, Jeroen de Haas, Lars Huijer and Kalian Sams.
Kalian Sams made it to AAA but never could make the step to the Bigs. Sams is a typical journeyman who has played in Mexico, Taiwan, Canada and still plays in the Netherlands as well after the professional seasons are over.
Lars Huijer made it to A-Advanced (the now defunct High Desert Mavericks in the California League) but was traded to the Cubs. At that point, he decided to call it a career and move back home to get to school again.
In June 2016, Norton was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame next to baseball greats Pat Hengten and Dennis Martinez.
According to his wife Trudy, the Mariners were very cooperative to adapt Wayne’s to reflect his liabilities. It may be clear that European coverage was not possible anymore.
Wayne passed at the age of 75.