Kyle Norton is a 2010 graduate of North Gwinnett and finished his baseball playing career at Georgia Gwinnett College. Now, he is an assistant baseball coach and the facilities and grounds manager for the athletic department. Norton has played and coached in the NAIA World Series.
In this installment of “Getting to Know …,” Norton talks with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including moving to Gwinnett from Philadelphia after eighth grade, transferring to GGC and his go-to karaoke song.
CT: You’re a North Gwinnett grad, but were you born and raised here?
KN: No. I’m originally from Philadelphia. We moved in 2006. I was here for eighth grade and then high school.
CT: That’s a little bit of a change.
KN: Yeah. It’s nice down here. I like it. A little less snow and the baseball was better down here. School, too. It was overall a great move for my family.
CT: Did you play sports other than baseball?
KN: Basketball and wrestled up until when I moved. Basketball was big up north.
CT: Did you celebrate when the Eagles won?
KN: Uh, I’m more of a Steelers fan, even though I was outside of Philadelphia. But I’m happy they won.
CT: How did you make your college decision? When you graduated, there wasn’t a baseball program at GGC yet.
KN: I think the article came out in 2011 that they would have it in 2012. I remember, I was at East Georgia for junior college, which was a startup program as well, and my mom showed me the article. She was like, “Hey, you might want to check into this.”
I didn’t think much of it, to be honest with you. It would have been nice, but I didn’t get recruited by the Grizzlies then. I was going to Norcross as a lay coach and over the summer I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I thought I had my mind set that I wouldn’t play baseball and I decided to come in here and talk to (head coach Brad) Stromdahl. He gave me an opportunity. The best coach I’ve had.
CT: So you finished two years at East Georgia and came back here to figure things out?
KN: Yeah. I coached with (Jonathan) Wyman at Norcross. He kind of started my coaching career. It was put on hold for a little bit because I decided to come here. But I was planning on coming to school here anyway, but if they were building a baseball field, I wanted to be on it.
CT: When you went off to college, was baseball your sole focus?
KN: For the most part. We own a hitting facility in Suwanee, my family, so coaching was always a part of my life. Choosing East Georgia was definitely baseball related. They said, “Hey, we’ll give you a shot down here.”
CT: You went to the World Series as a player and a coach. Is it a markedly different experience?
KN: Yes. Man, as a player, it’s one of my greatest memories. Probably the greatest memory. The best trip we’ve ever taken. And I thought we’d make it back every year after that.
I talked to Coach Stromdahl and he said, “You can come back and coach with us.” He gave me an opportunity to coach with him. After that, we were that good, we were going to recruit and we were going to keep going back. To not know that four years later you would end up back there, it was a really special moment as a coach. More watching the players and watching their experience. I wanted them to experience what I felt as a player. It was awesome. And to go that far, to be in the semifinals with that group of guys, it was really special to watch them.
CT: Cam Coursey (a Lanier grad who led the team in hitting as a freshman) said you were a big factor in his coming to GGC. Is word getting out among the talent in this county that this program is on the map?
KN: I think so. I’ve known Cam for a long time. He was special back then. We just kept in touch. But as far as talent coming to GGC, I think we’re on the map more than ever. We directed our recruiting more toward freshmen the past couple years and that’s really paid off for us. I think those freshmen are excited to be here. I think our staff here does a really good job of promoting them. Parents are excited they can come see their kids play in their backyard.
CT: What are your responsibilities here?
KN: With the facilities, taking care of the playing surface this year, John Ihlenburg helps me out a lot in softball. He kind of directs that side. Anything from cleaning the dugouts to painting, hanging banners.
CT: You’ve had a lot of banners to hang.
KN: Yeah, all of Chase (Hodges)’s banners down at the tennis facility.
CT: You’re going to have to build some more walls down there.
KN: Yep. Then it’s just day-to-day operations and event setup is a big one for Doug (Court) and I. Anything Doug asks. He’s the greatest boss you can have. When that guy says jump, you ask how high.
CT: Well, it always looks immaculate around here, so you must know what you’re doing.
KN: We try.
CT: Is it fair to assume your first job ever was at your family’s hitting facility?
KN: Yeah. I wouldn’t call it a job. I don’t think I’ve ever worked a day in my life. But that was the first gig. We opened that when I was 14 and it was fun. Then little coaching gigs with North Gwinnett teams out of the park. I worked at a few restaurants in college. This was the first actual resume/interview job I’ve had.
CT: You went to high school with your fiancee (Sarah Murphy), but were you dating then?
KN: We did not. We were just friends in high school. Then she went to Truett-McConnell and I went to East Georgia. We connected back here.
CT: Independent of each other, you both ended up at GGC?
CT: Did you have an official first date?
KN: Uh, yeah. We ordered pizza in one night. We were really good friends here for a long time before we started dating. Everyone saw it but us, of course. One of those stories. But it’s pretty cool to end up engaged to your best friend.
CT: If the sun’s out and the windows are down in the car, what kind of music do you want to listen to?
KN: Probably country. I’m from the North, but I have adapted. My dad was a big country guy even though he was from New Jersey. So we listened to country when I was a kid. I was probably odd-man out in the North.
CT: What song have you karaoked?
KN: “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra.
CT: Have you binge-watched anything lately?
KN: I’m a big “House of Cards” fan. I’m excited to see what Mrs. Underwood does. That’s a pretty good twist. Other than that, we don’t have cable at the house. Costs way too much. Then there’s the yard work. I come here and mow and then go home and mow. It’s kind of my life.
CT: What’s the next vacation spot you’d pick if money was no concern?
KN: I’d probably go to Italy, the Vatican. I was a history major. I did my whole final thesis on Roman waterworks, so I would head to that side of the world.
CT: If you could have a talent that you don’t have?
KN: Yes. If I could add something, it would be mechanic. I want to be better at working on cars.
CT: I think that same thing every time I take my car in to be fixed.