Norm Charlton was as big a part of the Seattle Mariners ’95 season as anyone, a walk-on closer who showed up in mid-July that year after Philadelphia had released him.
It wasn’t just his left arm that made an impact.
"Norm gave us a little swagger," Jay Buhner said.
Now 45, Charlton has seen the best of times and the worst of times in franchise history. He’s been a closer, worked with young pitchers in the Seattle minor league system and, last year, was the Mariners bullpen coach.
Over the years, getting to know him off the field was a delight, and no small surprise. When he spent his off-seasons at a ranch south of San Antonio, he hand-fed his prize Texas longhorns and adopted a javalina that would sleep on a chaise lounge on his patio.
When he worked out in the winter, it was often with a local high school team, and he spent at least as much time working with those players as he did on himself.
Charlton is a fiercely loyal friend and teammate, the kind of man who said what he felt even if it wasn’t the party line. He was good with the media, good with the fans.
When I wound up in the hospital for a month early last year, a lot of people in baseball called, and it helped get me through a tough time.
One evening just before spring training, Charlton walked into my hospital room. Just to chat.
When a good man is let go by a team – and all the Mariners coaches from 2008 were good men – it’s always bittersweet. It’s also baseball.
Charlton got a great deal out of the game in his career and doesn’t need to work, but baseball got a lot back with him in it.
Baseball needs more Norm Charltons. Here’s hoping he’s not out long.