MLB Pitcher Hopes His Simple Life Inspires Change

Daniel Norris, seen here walking off the field during a game against the Baltimore Orioles in April 2015, prefers to live out of a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia microbus he purchased for $10,000 — and he doesn't think all the attention he's getting will change that. (Photo: Keith Allison [CC by 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Norris, now better known as "The Van Man," is certainly worthy of ESPN's recent declaration that he's "the most interesting pitcher in baseball." The 21-year-old, who in 2011 scored a $2 million signing bonus with the Toronto Blue Jays, has captivated baseball fans and non-fans alike for one big reason: he lives in a $10,000 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia microbus nicknamed Shaggy.

I wrote about Norris a few weeks back, but I thought the story was worth revisiting after ESPN reporter Eli Saslow spent a few days hanging with the MLB phenom. "It really shows me that I can live a normal life without needing luxuries," Norris said of his van lifestyle. "I consider my life very luxurious, being able to live in that, travel around, sleep on the beach, and wake up to the waves. It really doesn't get much better than that."

The article is a fascinating in-depth piece on Norris, who continues to reveal aspects of his life that appear more akin to Christopher McCandless than a Major League Baseball prospect. For instance, instead of splurging with the rest of his rookie class on expensive gifts the day he received his millions, he instead went out and commemorated the moment with a $14 T-shirt. He also instructed his financial advisors to place his millions in conservative investments and dole out just $800 a month to his checking account. And where does he park during the Blue Jays spring training down in Dunedin, Florida? Behind the dumpsters at the local Wal-Mart.

"It's like a yin-and-yang thing for me," he told Saslow. "I'm not going to change who I am just because people think it's weird. The only way I'm going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me. It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure."

Of course, as the odds of him transitioning to the big leagues full-time improve, Norris faces the inevitable question: how to reconcile his simple life with what may turn into something that's not simple at all.

"I guess I'm going to have to figure out where and when to give in," he said "How much is necessary? How much feels right?"

If further fame and fortune do come along, Norris plans to using his love of minimalist living and nature to inspire some big changes in the world of sports.

"What I'll do, if baseball goes well, is I'll become even more of an ambassador for the things I really care about," he said. "I'll make sure Shaggy's still running. I'll pioneer change in how sports thinks about the environment." According to ESPN, that includes making "fans more aware of the Earth" and reducing the waste generated by stadiums.

Check out the rest of the great feature (including a video tour of the van) here.