Norris honored by players who know how the game should be played

Veterans appreciate catcher's 'heart and hustle'

Norris honored by players who know how the game should be played

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Padres catcher Derek Norris was voted what I consider to be one of the more prestigious awards in baseball on Tuesday.

It is one thing to be voted an award by the media or the fans.

It is quite another thing to be singled out by former players, as Norris was. 

Norris was voted the Padres recipient of the 2015 Heart and Hustle Award, making him a finalist for the national award that will be given out Nov. 10 at the 16th annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City.

The Heart and Hustle Award is the only award in Major League Baseball voted on by former players. The team-by-team Heart and Hustle Awards go to players from each team selected by a committee of former players from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

The awards go to those players who demonstrate a passion for baseball that best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game -- in other words, to players who former players believe play the game the right way.

Former Padres second baseman David Eckstein was the inaugural recipient of the national Heart and Hustle Award in 2005. We all remember how Eckstein played the game. Other winners include Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, Dustin Pedroia, Craig Biggio... you get the picture.

There is no question that the 26-year-old Norris is a fitting recipient of the honor amongst his Padres teammates. The 26-year-old plays the game with grit and determination. Although he plays the most physically demanding position on the field, he still wants to play every day. Even a prolonged slump hasn't altered the passion in his play.

Norris joins the broadcast

When Norris threw out Giants' shortstop Brandon Crawford trying to steal second in the sixth inning Monday night to complete a doubleplay, it raised his Major League-leading total of baserunners caught to 26.

Although he is hitting .137 (7-for-51) with no extra-base hits and no RBIs since June 26, Norris' 43 RBIs still rank third among Major League catchers, and his 29 extra-base hits are tied for the Major League lead.

It's not that Norris has forgotten how to hit. Through the first two months of the season, Norris was hitting .283 with 32 RBIs. But the physical and mental demands of starting 75 of the Padres first 94 games behind the plate has taken a toll on Norris. The ACL sprain to his left shoulder is but one of the many pains Norris has played through, which is why retired players honored Norris.

Norris might not have been an All-Star this season, but he plays the game the right way every day.

FROM THE SCORECARD

-- Right-handed pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne's domination of the Giants ended abruptly Tuesday night. Going into the game, Despaigne had a career 2-0 record against San Francisco with a 0.91 earned run average in five games (four starts). And he was 1-0 with a 0.51 ERA against the Giants after three games (two starts) at Petco Park. The domination of the Giants started with Despaigne's Major League debut at AT&T Park in San Francisco on June 23, 2014, when he pitched seven shutout innings. But the Giants got to Despaigne for six runs on seven hits, including two homers, Tuesday night to swell his career ERA against San Francisco to 2.37.

-- Third baseman Yangervis Solarte was 1-for-4 with a run scored Tuesday night. Since June 25, Solarte is hitting .308 (20-for-65) with six doubles, a triple and three homers with six RBIs and 11 runs scored. During the run, Solarte has a .569 slugging percentage and a .348 on-base percentage for a .917 OPS. He has raised his batting average from .235 to .252.

-- Matt Kemp's eight-game hitting streak ended Tuesday night. He was 0-for-2 and hit by a pitch. During the streak he was 14-for-31 with four doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs.

-- Center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. has hit .320 (8-for-25) in his last eight games with a double, a triple and a home run for a .560 slugging percentage and a .370 on-base percentage.