By:  Kurt Snyder

I am not afraid to admit it but I am ashamed all the same. My first response to finding out that the Tigers knew about Daniel Norris’ cancer prior to making the deal for him was, “Why did we trade for him?”

I should know better. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I beat myself up about it.  After all, there aren’t many families where some form of cancer hasn’t impacted their lives, and mine is no different. I’ve lost a mom. I’ve lost a sister-in-law and I have a college friend fighting hard for his life as we speak.

So this is more of an apology than anything else. With all the negative things that have been said about the Tigers this season, this story puts everything back to its rightful level of importance.

Prior to the trade deadline in July, the Tigers, looking for pitching prospects, scoured the league for trade partners interested in David Price. And they came across Daniel Norris, a talented 22-year-old lefty from Tennessee and the Toronto Blue Jays. And Detroit reached a deal with Toronto.

After hearing of the trade, all the quirky things came out about Norris living in a van and shaving with an ax; stories that made you wonder about what kind of goofball the Tigers had acquired. But we heard nothing about his thyroid cancer until now, something he had identified earlier in the season while with Toronto and before the Tigers made the trade for him.

Yes, the Tigers knew about the cancer and yes they are confident things will work out alright for Daniel. And you know what? The Tigers deserve a ton of respect.

Being able to pitch gives Norris the ability to take his mind off the cancer, which is incredible to me. How can he pitch? How can he concentrate with so much doubt and so much of a burden to carry? It tells you a little bit about competitive fire. It tells you a little about athletics and how driven some of these athletes are, and how just having the ability to play the game they love can make everything seem better even if things are not so great.

In the end, we are all just people and cancer has no favorites. Daniel Norris leans on his arm and his God-given ability to pitch to distract him from what troubles him. And the Tigers have stepped forward to ensure he will be given an opportunity to pitch, by not only investing in his future but also giving his future a fighting chance.

It’s really quite a fantastic thing that the Tigers have done. They are giving Daniel Norris life. I am sure they have protected their own interests and have been given some kind of assurance from his doctors that Norris will emerge from this in decent shape.

But the most important thing is that they are giving him a shot. There is nothing guaranteed in this situation. The outlook is good but you can never tell with this disease. One day it seems things are fine and you are able to move on with your life and then, bam, cancer rears its ugly head again.

But obviously the Tigers have thought this through and they need to be commended. If things turn out well for Norris and he emerges from this healthy and able to pitch for Detroit, the Tigers will have played a huge role.

Imagine if teams began to shy away from Norris after hearing about his condition. Many would understand the hesitancy. But others, the ones who really care, want to see this kid succeed.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Cancer rarely strikes weak people. It strikes the ones with great strength; it strikes people who are the most positive and uplifting.

Daniel Norris has shown a whole lot of composure in his short stint with the Tigers. Things haven’t gone perfectly, but he demonstrates the strength and maturity needed to overcome adversity on the mound. His intangibles are off the charts. But, little did we know what Norris was really battling.

It seems cancer always wants a good battle, but it doesn’t always win. And the Tigers have given Daniel Norris every opportunity to win the fight.


  1. Kurt that was a beautifully written post. You skillfully articulated an underlying message. We must all keep things in perspective. We love our Tigers, and at times it is easy to overlook the fact that these young men have lives beyond what we witness on the diamond. Daniel will need that strength he has shown on the mound to wage a fight against this insidious enemy.

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  2. This is one of those moments when I say, dang you Mike Illich and your win at all costs, corporate profit driven Pizza empire. Just when I had you painted one way, you go all super cool and ultra human with your other brand I love. Sure I wanted Price to stay. But I am pulling for Norris and the Tigers on this one because how you run it is important too.


  3. I think that humanity may have been an issue, but also rational risk assessment. Norris apparently has a type of thyroid cancer that is 97% curable. He is far more likely to blow out his elbow than to lose his career to this disease.


    • I’m sure all cases are different but here’s my story: 40 years ago, when I was about Norris’ age, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had surgery and one lobe (of two) of my thyroid was removed. My recovery from the surgery was about 6 weeks and I have been cancer free ever since. It did not negatively impact my life whatsoever. Best wishes to young Mr. Norris.


  4. Not sure how much and to what level Mr. I is involved in Tiger administration these days other than having final say on contracts/ budgets. IF he was involved in this transaction in any manner God Bless Mr. I. I thought the very same thing you penned in a great piece of journalism this morning Kurt. My bad! Thank you for putting me back on the right track of “life.”


  5. My first thought was exactly the same, “did they know about this when they traded for him”? My second thought was “how is Holly going to blame this on Ausmus?”


  6. I commend Nortis for his toughness & spirit! Don’t beat yourself up about your initial reaction. It’s natural, given the context of our loving our team. However, cancer affects us ALL, unfortunately. No known certain cure for any of its many forms. I pray for his healing & recovery!


  7. Cancer never win!. My wife passed from cancer last year in April, and while she is no longer with us her spirit lives on but her cancer does not! Very nice article and best of luck to your college friend!


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