Derek Norris broke the hamate bone in his left hand in late 2009, so the Washington Nationals' 07 4th Round pick was unable to go to the Arizona Fall League as planned, but he did go in 2010 and 2011, and during his second trip to the so-called finishing school for the game's top prospects, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters about the scouting reports he was getting on the then-22-year-old catcher.
"We know [Norris] can hit," Rizzo said. "We know he's got power. He's a high on base percentage guy. He's got a short compact stroke. We know he can hit. Package that with a plus arm, and now his feet are working, he's blocking pitches and pitchers love throwing to him. That's a really exciting package for us going into next season."
Norris was coming off a .210/.367/.446 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg in which he hit 17 doubles and 20 HRs in 104 games and 423 plate appearances.
That was down from an impressive 2009 season when he hit 30 doubles and 23 HRs in 126 games and 540 PAs at Class-A Hagerstown when he put up a .286/.413/.513 line, and his post-surgery season in '09 when he hit 19 doubles and 12 HRs and put up a .235/.419/.419 line in 94 games and 399 PAs with High-A Potomac.
He put up a .276/.367/.382 line and hit two doubles and two home runs in 21 games and 90 PAs in the AFL in 2011.
That winter, Norris was dealt to the Oakland A's along with left-hander Tommy Milone and right-handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock in the trade that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington.
Norris debuted in the majors with the Athletics in 2012 and put up a .226/.315/.383 line in 158 games and 540 PAs in his first two seasons with the A's, hitting 24 doubles and 16 HRs over that stretch, but it wasn't until 2014 that the then-25-year-old backstop really broke through, with a .270/.361/.403 line, 19 doubles and 10 HRs in 127 games and 442 PAs.
He also got his first shot at the Nationals who drafted, developed and traded him to Oakland, when the Nats visited the O.co Coliseum for a three-game set early in May.
After he went 2 for 4 against Doug Fister in the series opener, Norris told reporters that he did feel he had something to prove to the Nationals.
"You want to show them, 'This is what you're missing' kind of thing," he was quoted explaining in the San Francisco Gate. "Not in a drastic, blatant manner. Just kind of show them, 'This is what you could have had.' "
He ended the series 4 for 9 with two home runs after hitting two three-run blasts (both on 3-0 pitches from Nats' lefty Gio Gonzalez) in the series finale, with seven RBIs in the three-game set.
After the 2014 campaign, Norris was dealt to San Diego, and the now-26-year-old catcher got another shot at the Nationals last night in Petco Park.
In his first at bat, with two on and two out in the first, Norris hit a high, center-cut 1-0 sinker from Fister deep to left field and off the scoreboard below the second deck of outfield seats to put the Padres up 3-0.
Fister tried a 1-0 breaking ball in the second, and Norris just missed his second three-run blast, settling instead for a two-run triple that bounced off the outfield fence and put the Padres up 7-0.
The one-time Nationals' prospect finished the game 2 for 3 with five RBIs, leaving him 6 for 12 with 12 RBIs in four games against the team the Nationals.
His big night at the plate left him with a .304/.336/.504 line, 14 doubles and three home runs after 34 games and 131 PAs this season.
"We've seen that," Padres' skipper Bud Black said when asked about what Norris is capable of doing at the plate.
"He's had a nice six weeks of the season here where we've seen him use the whole field. We've seen him drive the ball. We've seen some RBI production. We've seen him prepare for a game both as a catcher and offensively and he had a pretty good plan against Fister, I think, going in. And it resulted in what? Five RBIs? He's got that in him, the offensive part of his game and that was huge for us obviously to set the tone for this one tonight. He's a guy that comes with bat in hand, but most importantly, he's a guy that, I think he knows that what he does behind the plate is the most important thing."
If he felt he had a point to prove to the Nationals, Norris has certainly proven it.