PROSPERITY — At the young age of 5, Carl Edwards Jr.’s dream of playing professional baseball was only a dream. Little did he know that at the age of 24, his Major League Baseball dream would come true.
Edwards, known affectionately to friends and family as “CJ,” was called up Sept. 7 by the Chicago Cubs.
Edwards said his father taught him everything he needed to know about baseball early on.
“I started baseball with him when he was around 5,” Edwards’ father, Carl Sr., said. “I would just have him in the yard throwing to me.”
Edwards said he would tell his son simply to “hit the mitt.”
“I always said ‘hit the mitt CJ,” Edwards said. “No matter where I put the mitt I want you to hit it.”
CJ was called up by the Chicago Cubs before their 9-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Edwards pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a walk but no hits in the eighth inning.
Receiving the news that Monday started off as a prank. Edwards said it was set up perfectly by him receiving word that he hadn’t paid his spring training dues when he knew they had been paid.
“They finally said to me, you can just say that you’ve paid them when you get to St. Louis,” Edwards said. “It was like a prank in there, it was funny the way they did it.”
Stepping off the plane in St. Louis on Sept. 7, Edwards was thrown right into the fast-paced schedule of MLB. Edwards said he got off his flight at 11:50 a.m., grabbed a shuttle at 12:20 p.m. and was at the field at 12:45 p.m., with the game starting at 1:05 p.m.
“By the time I got there and got dressed, I had to run out to the field just to get ready,” Edwards said.
Edwards said he was just happy to be there and was proud of his performance against St. Louis. Although his first day was a wild experience, he said it was also a great one.
Edwards’ father said he was proud when he received the news.
“I always told him that I knew he could do it and he just had to wait until his time came for them to call him up,” Carl Sr. said. “I knew it was going to happen.”
Because they’ve been on the road in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Edwards said he has not made it to the city of Chicago, but is looking forward to exploring. The size difference between these cities and his hometown of Prosperity does not discourage Edwards, but rather excites him.
“I look at it as exploring new places,” Edwards said. “Of course every time we play, there are a lot of places we go to that are bigger than Prosperity. I just like seeing new places so I think it’s good for me.”
Several other rookies were called up along with Edwards this season. He said they all get along very well.
“Our goal is to help out this big league team,” Edwards said. “As you see with the other guys that have been here for a while, they are helping the team out and my goal is to continue with this trend and to help the team.”
Edwards said there was no pressure being an elite pitching prospect. His goal was to keep everything small and to keep the game as simple as possible. While there are a lot of fans and background noise, Edwards said he tries to minimize that and when he is on the mound, that noise is tuned out.
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is different from any other coach Edwards said he has had, in a positive way. Edwards said Maddon is the definition of a real coach and knows the game of baseball in his heart.
“No matter how good you do or how your performance goes, he’s still the same guy that will put you out there to give you another chance,” Edwards said. “He just wants you to be comfortable and play the game, not stress.”
Edwards said it is a blessing to have someone like Maddon as his first major league manager. Right now, Edwards said he is just taking the whole experience in, but can definitely see himself as a closer or a starter in the future.
Having graduated from Mid-Carolina High School in 2011, Edwards said he never expected that just four years later he would be playing Major League Baseball.
The Cubs promoted Edwards from Triple-A Iowa where he had posted a 3-1 record with a 2.84 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Edwards had started the season with the Cubs’ Double-A team, the Tennessee Smokies, and went 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA with 36 strikeouts before being promoted.
Prior to playing Double-A, Edwards played with the Daytona Cubs, played A-ball with the Hickory Crawdads in Hickory, N.C., went to short season for the Spokane Indians and played rookie ball with the Rangers in Arizona.
Before the start of this season, Edwards was named the 38th ranked prospect by Baseball America and 47th by MLB.com. He was discovered by the Cubs before they made a trade for him in the summer of 2013. Edwards has a 19-10 career record in his four minor-league seasons with a 2.03 ERA and 369 strikeouts.
When Edwards got the news he said he had no idea that friends and family would have the type of reaction that developed.
“I was excited to see so many people back home enjoying it and watching me and stuff,” Edwards said. “As soon as it hit the internet, I almost had to turn off my phone due to the overwhelming response.”
Faith, Edwards’ mother, said as a family, they all were very happy. Faith, Carl and Edwards’ brother Chris traveled with Edwards from Texas to St. Louis to watch him throw his first MLB game.
“It was a dream come true for him, but actually for all of us,” Faith said.
When CJ was born, his mother said they told her he was a miracle baby. She believes God is still working miracles in his life today.
“He always said that was one thing he wanted to do and we’re thankful he was able to do it and thank God that both of us as parents were here to see it,” she said.
Edwards has a fiancé, Anquinette Smith and newborn daughter, Ava. Smith is in the military, Edwards said, and they are thinking about coming back to South Carolina in the future.
Reach Elyssa Parnell at 803-276-0625.