When the newest member of the Chicago Cubs stepped onto Wrigley field in the familiar blue uniform for the very first time on Sunday, among those celebrating his milestone was one of his coaches, Vinton native Josh Kauten.
James Norwood, a reliever, pitched in his first game with the Cubs yesterday. Manager Joe Maddon sent Norwood into the game in the bottom of the 12th inning, with the goal of keeping the score tied at 4. Norwood struck out the first batter he faced, Brandon Crawford, with a 99 mph fastball that Crawford swung at and missed. After the K, catcher Wilson Contreras called time-out and asked for a new ball. The one used to strike out Crawford ended up in the Cubs dugout, the first souvenir of the first of what many baseball observers believe will be many successes in the big leagues for Norwood.
Although Norwood kept the Giants off the scoreboard in the 12th, he returned in the 13th, and gave up the game-winning hit to future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey. The Cubs lost, 5-4.
Despite starting his MLB career with a “L,” Norwood’s future with the Cubs seems bright.
“The beautiful thing about Norwood was the way he handled it. He walked out there and, man, just had some great stuff,” Maddon told the Chicago Sun-Times.
On Sunday, Kauten was in the stands to see Norwood wearing the Cubs uniform for the very first time. The two — accompanied by a random boy from the stands who managed to photo-bomb the two — poised for a photo.
Kauten called Norwood’s milestone “a crazy moment for me personally.”
“Seeing this picture really puts into perspective what we are trying to build at Ks Academy and the reach and impact we’ve had so far,” he said.
Kauten owns and operates the pitching clinic, called Ks Training Academy, in Normal, Ill., along with his partner, Chris Razo. While Kauten has coached several college and minor league players in pitching techniques and arm strength and conditioning, he says Norwood is the only of his protégés currently in the majors. However, Brock Stewart, the 2016 Minor League Player of the Year in the L.A. Dodgers organization, has also made some appearances in the Major Leagues.
Kauten met Norwood through their families.
“My wife, Emily, had coached Norwood’s girlfriend in high school volleyball,” says Kauten. “They met at college. She knew I trained baseball players and had a few in the pros. He lived with her in the off-season one year so we worked together that year.” Emily played volleyball at Illinois State; Josh played baseball there at the same time.
Norwood spent some time at the clinic in Normal. Kauten and Norwood still conduct remote training sessions.
“We train him primarily in the strength and conditioning and arm care realm and we’ve worked in the pen a few times,” Kauten explains.
“He is a super quiet and unassuming guy — just goes about his business and works. He never misses a workout,” says Kauten, who has videotaped Norwood repping at 495 pounds in the weight room.
Norwood has worked with Kauten for two years, and has even helped with coaching at the K Academy.
“This is just the beginning for this guy,” says Kauten.
From Manhattan, NY, Norwood played baseball at St. Louis University. He was a 7th-round draft pick for the Cubs in 2014.
Kauten played high school baseball for Vinton-Shellsburg and coach Jim Struve. He joined the Vinton-Shellsburg Hall of Fame in 2013.
In high school, he was a nine-time letter winner in Football, Basketball, Track, & Baseball. He received All-district honors in football and baseball, as well as All-conference honors in baseball. He was an infielder on the 2000 State semi-finalist baseball team. He was also a member of the school-sponsored bowling team that qualified for state in 2000.
After High School, Kauten went on to play baseball at Kirkwood, then Illinois State University. In addition to his success on the baseball diamond, Josh also received several academic recognitions, including being named an Academic All-American.
Josh was an 11th Round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers. He played for the West Michigan Whitecaps and was selected for the American Association League All-star Game. At the conclusion of his playing career, Kauten began coaching. He coached pitchers for several years at Heartland Community College in Illinois.