Senior infielder Joe Norton officially entered the record books on Sunday, March 20, becoming the all-time leader in stolen bases in Montclair State University baseball team history.
Norton stole his 69th base in a double-header against Manhattanville College surpassing alumni Dave Wurst’s 68 and currently has 73 career stolen bases as of April 15.
Norton was thrilled to finally reach that legendary mark.
“It was exciting,” Norton said. “It was cool to know that when I got it, that was the one. It’s kind of annoying to be in that area where I’m one or two away in the back of my head, not that I’m trying to think about it, but it’s just there.”
Head coach Dave Lorber spoke about the moment it happened and Norton’s ability to steal bases with ease.
“He’s a student of the game,” Lorber said. “He’ll listen and look for things a lot of others don’t. He gets good leads, he gets good reads and he’s quick. [Norton’s] got a really good first three steps and that’s what helps him steal a lot of bases.”
The Red Hawks often have the freedom to run and steal bases when they feel they are capable. Norton is one of those players Lorber trusts the most to make those crucial plays.
“[Norton’s] the guy that has the green light a lot of the time for us,” Lorber said. “Both those bags were green lights, [so] he had the right to go. We trust him and we trust our players to do those things in those situations.”
Adding on to a historic season, Norton also reached 200 career hits at Montclair State and currently sits ninth on the most hits list with 227 as of April 15. His 200th hit came on Tuesday, March 15 in a doubleheader against Trinity College.
This milestone is something the senior infielder always wanted to achieve.
“That one was probably something that was a little more exciting for me [because] 200 hits is always something that I’ve wanted to do,” Norton said. “That’s one where, offensively, when you get stuck at a number, you get frustrated. Getting that one out of the way was nice. Now, I just play, have fun the rest of the year and see where I end up.”
Norton now has 42 hits on the season, getting his most recent hit on Sunday, April 10, in a 5-4 win against the Ramapo College Roadrunners.
“[Norton’s] really good at understanding the strike zone and has a pretty compact swing he works at every day,” Lorber said. “He puts the ball in play the right way and if you do that, you’re going to get on base.”
Norton began his student-athlete career at Montclair State back in 2017. With this being his sixth and final season, Norton was able to reflect on some of the challenges he’s faced including the 2020 season getting canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The season abruptly halted after only 12 games and never resumed.
“One night we were playing in Aberdeen, Maryland, and it went from me hearing about COVID-19 for pretty much the first time to the season being over three days later,” Norton said.
Although the pandemic was a struggle for the senior infielder, as it was for everyone, it presented him with opportunities to return to Montclair State and resume his education.
“That’s something I guess that worked out well for me,” Norton said. “It allowed me to come back. Now, I’m getting my master’s and continuing to play. As bad as it was, it ended up being something that gave me some good opportunities now.”
In addition to that, COVID-19 didn’t stop Norton from training and preparing for the next season. Coming off a shortened 2020 season, Norton scored 39 runs in 2021 which is the most he’s gotten in a single season.
With this being Norton’s last season, he is content with how his career has faired at Montclair State. He’s not feeling quite ready for the end, but he is happy to have been successful with the Red Hawks and is focusing on the rest of the season.
“Bittersweet is a good way to describe it. I’m not ready to move on, but I’m content with how everything went in my career,” Norton said. “The last three years have especially been a lot better. We’ve moved forward and won some good games.”
Lorber is thankful for Norton’s time with the Red Hawks as well. He has been a positive role model for the younger players on the team and is a great player to look up to.
“He’s just a no-nonsense guy,” Lorber said. “He’ll help with equipment, he’ll help set up things, [he] is always coachable and always listening. When you’re a young guy coming in and you’re seeing a guy in his sixth year still asking questions and still listening and still learning, it’s hard not to follow suit.”