Playing For Steve: Bull Dogs, softball community come together for benefit for Norman family

Steve Norman is joined by his daughter Sierra for a second annual softball fundraiser in his honor at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, June 6, 2023. A deputy chief of the Columbus Police Department and Columbus North assistant softball coach, Steve Norman was seriously injured when he was struck by a pickup truck on an on-ramp to I-70 in Indianapolis in May 2022.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

While putting together their best season in school history this spring, the Columbus North softball team had the words “playingforsteve” inscribed on the back of their white batting helmets.

Tuesday night, most of the players from this year’s Bull Dog squad came together with a group of players from other area high school and college players at Columbus East to put on a benefit game for the Norman family. Steve Norman, who was an assistant coach for North, was seriously injured when he was hit by an F-450 when he exited his car on an on-ramp to I-70 in Indianapolis 13 months ago.

“I’m doing good,” Norman said. “Of course, it’s never good enough, as far as I’m concerned, but from where I was a year ago, I’m doing pretty well.”

A deputy chief for the Columbus Police Department, Norman was off-duty for CPD and working as a security driver for Cummins on May 10, 2022. He had dropped some Cummins executives off at the airport and was exiting Sam Jones Expressway onto I-70 to return for his youngest daughter Lucy’s softball game at Southside Elementary that night.

Norman doesn’t recall why he exited the vehicle, but when he was hit, he suffered a broken jaw, orbital fractures, broken pelvis, two dislocated knees, mangled foot and other broken bones. He was in ICU at Eskanazi Hospital for 18 days.

“They sent him home, but they shouldn’t have because he was internally bleeding,” said his wife Janae. “We went back the following week for a surgery on his foot, and his hemoglobin was down to 4, and it’s supposed to be like 14 or 15. So he was back in ICU for another seven or eight days and had a couple surgeries during that time, as well.”

Steve returned home in mid-June. The 29-year veteran of the police department and deputy chief for the past three years, he started working from home three months after his accident.

“Fortunately, when this happened, I had an administrative job, so I’m back with that,” Steve said. “Since at least February, I’ve been trying to go in and work as much as I can.”

Steve, who has undergone 17 surgeries since the accident, does rehab three days a week. This spring, he also was able to attend some of his middle daughter Sierra’s Marian University softball games.

“Traveling was difficult at first,” Janae said. “He had to be transported by an ambulance for a long time anywhere he went for appointments or surgeries or whatever because he had to have his leg straight out. He couldn’t weight-bear on either one for months.”

Sierra, a junior first baseman at Marian, helped lead the Knights to the NAIA World Series, and Steve was able to make the trip with Janae to the games last week in Columbus, Georgia.

“That was a big deal,” Janae said. “That was huge for Sierra to have him there, to have both of us there, because last year in March, he went to Florida when they went on spring break to play and then this year, he wasn’t in a place where he could travel like that. So him going down to Georgia, it was a lot of travel for him to be in a car that long, but she was thrilled that he was there.”

On Tuesday, Sierra joined what would have been some of her former North teammates had her senior season in 2020 not been shut down because of the COVID pandemic. They lost 12-2 to a team that included two North players, one East player and others from Seymour and Center Grove, including Norman’s Marian teammate and Seymour native Grace Meyer.

“It’s a lot of fun, especially with these girls,” Sierra said. “You can just come out here and have some fun, especially playing for Dad. Knowing that all of these girls are willing to do that for him just means a lot to me and our family that they can share this love of the game with him, too.”

A total of $690 was counted from a donation box at the game.

“It’s awesome to be able to come out here and play for Steve,” said former North standout Maddi Rutan, who is headed to play at Eastern Kentucky. “I’m glad we got to do it for Steve and his family. We’re just out here to play for him. It’s been a good turnout with everybody, and hopefully, we got some good donations. It was good to see my girls again.”

Steve was surprised by the outpouring of support.

“They asked me to come,” Steve said. “I didn’t quite realize that this was going to be for me and my family, so it’s great. It just shows you how good the softball community is around here. My wife and my girls, my friends, this community has been great at taking care of us,” Steve said. “They did things for us that I was like, ‘Wow.’ I can’t say enough about Columbus and this community and everybody in it.”

Steve figures he’s been going to games of his daughters Kat, Sierra and Lucy for 15 years. All three also played basketball at North, and Kat played college basketball at Hanover.

“I’ll miss it when it’s done because it has been a huge part of our lives,” Steve said. “Travel ball, local rec ball, everything, it means a lot to us, and I don’t want it to end.”