SALT LAKE CITY — Some kids are just special; their entire existence is undoubtedly a miracle. The fight in their little souls is awe-inspiring, the joy in their faces heart melting. Though it takes effort just to survive, their ability to shed light on people, to influence others to be better people is effortless.
Paxton Norton is not only one of those extremely special kids, but he is quite literally one in a million — or possibly even billions. Norton was born with a deletion on his seventh chromosome — 7-Q deletion syndrome — which affects every cell throughout his nearly 3-year-old body. He was not expected to live through birth, but he has defied the odds, affecting his family's outlook on life.
“With all the pain and struggles he's been through — to see how much he smiles, how much he laughs, how much he beams with joy — you cant help but smile and be glad yourself,” Paxton's father, Dave Norton, said.
Baseball makes Paxton light up, so the Sons of Baseball Foundation and the Salt Lake Bees put on an MVP experience for the entire Norton family on Monday night. During batting practice prior to the game, Norton grinned with every cracking sound of a bat as his brothers played catch alongside the Bees' players.
“He loves that unique sound of that bat hitting the ball, and that's really fun to watch his reaction to that,” Dave Norton said.
Throughout the night, Bees' players and staff warmly greeted Paxton and his family. Recognizing the daily struggles of the young family, both the Sons of Baseball and the Bees wanted to give them an experience that they would not forget. The Nortons were showered with autographed baseballs and bats, Bees jerseys, love and respect from every player in the locker room.
“We love the game, what it means — the adversity, the teamwork and the whole lessons of life that are taught on this field,” Dave said. “To see it come full circle to have my son Paxton here and to have the Salt Lake Bees organization honor him … it’s really special.”
As Paxton took the field for the first pitch, Dave, a father of three children, saw how baseball has changed his own life and how it continues to affect him everyday. As a former Utah pitcher, Dave pitched on the very same mound where Paxton sat as he pushed his baseball out onto the field for the first pitch.
“For Paxton to be invited here to come throw out the first pitch, from this mound where I trained, is so special, so unique,” Dave Norton said. “How many boys have that chance? We're just grateful and humbled by it.”
Baseball is often referred to as a family game, and it's something that keeps the Norton family close. Paxton's grandmother, Melanie Rasband, explained that Dave never forced baseball on Paxton, he just naturally gravitated towards it. Paxton has a stuffed baseball, which is his favorite toy, and when he sees it, his entire face lights up.
“Dave played baseball, and it’s been a part of the Norton family,” Rasband said. “We've just gotten swallowed up in it. There's something magical about a baseball, and you can tell with Paxton. When things really mean something to him, he just radiates and glows.”
Although the Norton family shares a love for baseball, Paxton’s birth soon became the love everyone shared. The young toddler has brought family and friends closer than ever before. Paxton brings joy to all who know him, and throughout the 34 total surgeries Paxton has endured, the Norton family has relied on support from family and friends.
“That's our support network, our family and our closest friends, who rallied around us for these past two plus years,” Dave said. “To get Paxton to this point, it has taken all those individuals and several more who couldn't come tonight.”
Paxton's older brother, Camden, sees Paxton’s struggles and small victories everyday.
“So, Paxton, he's a great brother,” Camden said. “What's cool is that he didn't die, he survived. … He's a special brother.”
Since Paxton has such a rare condition, it is hard for the Norton family to know what to expect in the future. Dave and his wife Shannon Norton said they want to see Paxton develop as much as he possibly can so he can really enjoy all that life has to offer.
“For me, I don't have a lot of high expectations, but I want Paxton to be able to do things that he wants to do,” Shannon said. “For him, moving around and exploring is really important. So we do a lot of therapy that way, just to help him not feel held back in the things that he wants to do.”
Although every improvement Paxton makes is taken in stride, the Norton family has come to truly celebrate the small victories.