The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

June 9, 2014

Noreman playing with a heavy heart

Miners pitcher honors memory of his mom who recently died of brain cancer

BECKLEY — Seth Noreman delivered a pitch in the third inning, then needed a moment to take care of a pain in his left leg.

Those watching thought Noreman hurt himself on the play, when in reality he has been nursing an injury since the spring during his sophomore season at Rochester Institute of Technology.

“I had a bulged disc in my back and it put pressure on my sciatic nerve in my left leg,” the West Virginia Miners right-hander said. “I just had pain shooting down my leg.”

It forced Noreman out of action — “I had to sit and do nothing for three weeks,” he said. He was limited to three starts for the Tigers, and his debut with the Miners last Monday was his first game since April 17.

It wasn’t a bad debut for Noreman. He got a no-decision in West Virginia’s 1-0 win over Richmond, but he held the RiverRats to one hit and had four strikeouts over 4 1-3 innings.

He also walked four batters, something Noreman attributes to the lingering effect of the nerve issue. His leg still gets sore, particularly on the back end of his delivery. On this particular play he says he pulled his leg up too high and took too much of a stride.

“The trainer said that should be going away pretty soon, so once that’s gone my inconsistency will go away,” an encouraged Noreman said.

Yes, that injury will eventually cease to exist and Noreman will go back to being in top physical condition.

Emotionally? That might take some time.

Noreman is playing with a much greater pain than a bulged disc could ever cause. Just a few weeks before he arrived in Beckley, his mom, Lori, died of brain cancer.

It was a long battle for Lori, holding on for 10 years. In some cases, brain cancer patients don’t make it one year, much less one decade.

“She’s always been my hero. She was the strongest woman,” Noreman says proudly. “Every time I go out there I play for her.”

And he does so knowing he has her blessing. Noreman is hundreds of miles from his family home on Long Island, N.Y., but he’s doing what makes him happy, which is what Lori insisted he should do.

“Near the end, like the last six months, is when it started getting tough,” he said. “I think it was two months before she passed, she wasn’t completely there. So my dad (Jeff) told her that I got onto the Miners and he said, ‘This is his opportunity to make it to the next level.’ And she said, ‘Well, what are you waiting for? Go!’

“She has always been (supportive). Surprisingly enough, before my high school years she was always rooting for me and my sisters to do well in school, and all of a sudden she was more into baseball than my dad. Which is very surprising if you knew her before.”

Noreman wears a yellow Livestrong wristband around his left wrist to honor Lori. Livestrong is a foundation started by former professional cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong that provides support to people affected by the disease in any of its forms.

The last game Noreman was a part of at Rochester, his teammates wore a gray ribbon — the symbol for brain cancer awareness.

He will always carry the memories of his mom, memories that help him get through every day and every game. But ask him if it’s easy and he gives an honest shake of the head, a look on his face that reminds you that he is, after all, human.

“It’s very hard for me,” he said. “That’s one of the things she loved the most. A lot of the time she would actually come to tears watching me pitch. I really got myself into the game (last week) mentally because I want to do everything I can to make her proud of me.”

Noreman has enjoyed his first three weeks in Beckley, to which he came under the strong recommendation of Houston Astros pitching coach Brent Strom. But in so many ways this summer is more about a temporary escape from reality than it is a gateway to pro baseball.

And it’s for that reason that he worries about his family back home.

“Being here right now is really good for me,” Noreman said. “I have a really good setup. I have a really great host family. I love them so much. They’re helping me get through this. Actually, my host dad just lost his dad, so we’re kind of going through the same thing.

“But I worry about my family because they all have to try to go back to their normal everyday life, and that’s the hardest part about it. I’m very nervous for when I have to go back to school. This is the perfect distraction.”

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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