In September, 2004 I read an article in the Honolulu Advertiser about the Oahu Adult Baseball League, that featured a team called the Oahu Ravens. At the time, I’d been living on Oahu for almost a year and hadn’t made any real friends and didn’t feel particularly connected to a community yet.
Though I hadn’t played on an organized baseball team since I was 14, on Monday, September 21, 2004 (my 29th birthday), I called the league, signed up, and was placed on the roster of the Oahu Ravens – the same team profiled in the above-linked article.
One of the first guys I met was Norm Marsh. Stormin’ Norman, as we called him, was a 51-year-old surfer dude. He stood about 6’1″ maybe 6’2″, with long limbs, sun-bleached hair, and a tan that seemed to go down to his bones. He had light blue – almost grey – eyes and an easy, genuine smile. He had a dog, a teenaged German Shepard named Mako, that was his ever-present sidekick.
Norm was athletic and handsome, ego-less but cool. He walked with a smooth, confident gait, like a champion racehorse, and his confidence was contagious. When you were hanging with Norm, you felt cool and athletic and handsome.
As a vocation, Norm shaped surfboards. As a lifestyle, he rode waves and played baseball. Norm lived on the North Shore of the island and didn’t spend much time indoors. He didn’t have an email address, certainly didn’t have Facebook account and didn’t own a cellphone. If you wanted to contact Norm, you called his shop. If he didn’t answer, you called back later. He was a throwback to an earlier era in Hawaii. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all if we found out someday that Norm was a time-traveler from the 1950’s.
Norm didn’t play baseball in high school. As a Freshman in the late 1960’s Norm was a talented athlete, but when the school’s coach instituted a rule banning long hair on the team, Norm decided that he’d rather maintain his independence than conform. He didn’t play ball again until his 40’s. With the Oahu Ravens, he usually played second and third base. He had good patience at the plate and when he got ahold of one, he had decent power to the gaps.
Norm had an easy, natural charisma that made me feel welcome to the Ravens at a time when I was still trying to feel comfortable in my new community. That same easy, friendly manner that made me feel welcome was what made Norm universally liked and respected in the Oahu Adult Baseball League and on the North Shore. Norm was a local fixture charging big waves up there, so much so that the Hawaii Surf News Network called him “an underground legend.”
In June of this year Norm was diagnosed with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. Stormin’ Norman passed away on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at age 61. He will be missed by everyone he ever shared a lineup with, be it on the baseball diamond or out on the waves.
Wherever you are today, Norm, they’re lucky to have you.