For Orioles 2021 second-round pick and infield prospect Connor Norby, there were plenty of people who helped him get where he is today. That includes East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin, who helped him grow as a player and person the past three years.
“First and foremost, I have to give Coach Godwin all the credit because he’s the reason why I am at where I am today,” Norby said on Glenn Clark Radio July 20. “You come in as a freshman and most freshmen have the growing pains that they have to go through and mine were just like any other freshman, and I had maybe even a few more.”
Godwin remembered how their relationship began and how it grew throughout the years. He often relays Norby’s story to young players at East Carolina.
“Nobody has been coached harder and criticized constructively than Connor Norby as a freshman and you see where he is today,” Godwin said on GCR July 13. “The first thing was the conversation in [during a series at] Cincinnati his freshman year. I said, ‘Hey man, we’re not recruiting anybody else. Are you transferring?’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m not.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s awesome. I want you here, but we’ve got to continue to get better.'”
The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Norby ended up playing at East Carolina University from 2019-2021 before being selected No. 41 overall in this year’s draft. The right-handed hitter batted .392/.458/.596 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs during his three years at East Carolina, with 15 of those homers coming in 2021.
Observers have spoken highly of Norby’s contact skills with the bat. Norby says he is thinking of one thing while he is at bat — how to get on base.
“I’m always looking to hit something hard. My whole swing and setup is meant to go to the opposite field, pretty much,” Norby said. “So that’s what I look for. Early in counts, especially early in the game, I’ll swing at first pitch. … I’ll be aggressive early on.”
While Norby’s hit tool gets high marks, some have questioned the rest of his game. Godwin spoke about how much Norby has grown as an all-around player.
“He’s really got a short compact swing,” Godwin said. “He’s a lot stronger then probably what he looks like, he can run, he’s a plus defender at second base, he’s got a really good arm. He came in as a two-way player for us, and he’s 90-plus off the mound.”
With that being said, Norby wants to continue getting better. Norby played second base at East Carolina but wants to be able to play other positions.
“I know I want to be able to play other positions,” Norby said. “I kind of look at myself, and I actually know him a little bit and I’ve met him before, as Whit Merrifield, so I kind of consider myself a little bit of him where he just hits. He can play multiple positions, steal some bases.”
Norby has already signed his contract with the Orioles for a reported $1.7 million bonus. The Orioles welcomed Norby and first-rounder Colton Cowser at Camden Yards July 23.
Norby was at his mother’s house in Winston-Salem, N.C., during the draft. He said there was a possibility that he’d be drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays at No. 28 overall, but that fell through.
“I was there with just a bunch of friends and family on the first night [of the draft],” Norby said. “I didn’t really know if I was going to go that night. I didn’t know if I was going to get the call or anything. I was 50-50 in a sense. I ended up getting a call late in the first round. We kind of tentatively agreed to a deal with Tampa. That one ended up not happening, which it actually worked out for the better.”
Norby wasn’t the only East Carolina Pirate to be taken high in the draft. The Cleveland Indians took ECU ace right-hander Gavin Williams with the No. 23 overall pick. Norby broke down Williams’ game.
“Actually, he moved in with me this year,” Norby said. “He had always been able to throw hard. His command was always shaky at times. He had to develop an off-speed pitch.”
For more from Norby, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Godwin, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of ECU Athletics