COLUMBIA, S.C. — Doug Norman surveyed 8,200-seat Carolina Stadium and its minor-league-esque features. Its red chairback seats, its palm trees beyond right field, its city skyline backdrop and brick exterior.
“It feels really weird, man,” he said.
LSU’s freshman reliever made his return home — or, at least, very near home — this week. Norman is from Fort Mills, South Carolina, about 70 miles north of Columbia. He has a history with the Gamecocks. They recruited him heavily, and then he spurned them by committing to Georgia.
After later decommitting from Georgia, South Carolina spurned him.
He’s back to face the Gamecocks with the top-ranked Tigers.
“Feels a lot different being on the field in this uniform,” he said, “but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Norman played “four or five” high school and summer ball tournaments at Carolina Stadium and, at one point, thought he’d be playing for South Carolina.
He expected several family members and friends in the stands for the three-game, Thursday-Saturday series in Columbia. In fact, he had so many requests for tickets that teammates pitched in.
“A lot of guys on the team are giving me their tickets,” Norman said smiling.
Players are each given a small amount of tickets for road and home games for friends and family.
So how many Normans will be in the stands throughout the week?
“Can’t even keep track of it, man,” Norman said Wednesday night after LSU practice at the stadium. “I’m trying not to think about that or deal with that too much, but (I’ve) got a bunch of people coming down. A lot of my good friends are on the way right now, my parents and relatives.”
Norman committed to Georgia over South Carolina during his early high school career. Georgia fired David Perno, and Norman decommitted from the Bulldogs. He and his high school coaches reached out to South Carolina.
“They didn’t hear back,” Norman said. “I don’t know if they were upset or whatever. That was the year they had just come off their third trip to the national championship (series in 2012). They probably hadn’t had an in-state kid turn them down the past five years.”