WLU’s Edwards to coach in collegiate summer league

WHEELING – Justin Edwards is returning to Worcester.

Six years removed from playing for the then Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League, Edwards will return to Massachusetts this summer to serve as pitching coach for the Worcester Bravehearts, an expansion team in the Future Collegiate Baseball League.

It is a 10-team, NCAA-sanctioned wooden bat summer league also comprised of teams in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine. It’s been in existence since 2010.

”I can’t wait,” said Edwards, also the pitching coach at his alma mater, West Liberty University.

”I had such a great experience in 2008 when I was a rookie playing for them and I still have a ton of friends and teammates who still live up there.

”I also can’t wait to be travelling to places like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and catching some Red Sox games. Worcester is only 35 minutes away from Boston.”

Edwards said he’d always been open to the possibility of returning to the region as a coach.

”I knew I wanted to coach in a collegiate summer league, so I emailed every team from about six leagues,” Edwards said. ”One of my good friends and former teammates in Worcester, Alex Trezza, actually then called me and asked if I would be interested in the position.”

Trezza is the team’s manager.

”I’ll report there the first week of June,” Edwards said. ”We start right away and the season will run June through mid-August. It has a 56-game summer schedule, which is really nice to be able to play practically everyday in the summer, rather than some other summer leagues who only play two or three days a week.

”The goal of the league is to keep the college player playing at a very high level throughout the summer,” Edwards said.

”They are definitely going to do it up right. We’ll have our own charter bus for away games and it’s going to really have a minor-league feel to it.”

Edwards is a baseball lifer. The son of Wheeling Jesuit University head baseball coach Terry Edwards, Justin grew up around the sport and eventually played for his dad while he was the ultra-successful head coach at Wheeling Central.

Following a brief stint at West Virginia University, Edwards ended up at West Liberty playing for legendary coach Bo McConnaughy and then embarked on a lengthy, and successful, trip through various levels of the game.

Included in that journey were stints with the York Revolution, the Washington Wild Things and, finally, the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Mixed in, he was also helping teach clinics and such at the Total Athlete Indoor Training Center in Triadelphia.

But, like his dad, Edwards, had the itch to coach. So when the opportunity arose to don the Hilltoppers uniform again it was one he couldn’t turn down.

”I worked at the training center for three years and it was a great experience at a great facility,” Edwards said. ”However, with getting hired as a coach, teacher and assistant intramural director at West Liberty, I had to discontinue working there.”

Edwards will be doling out plenty of instruction with the Bravehearts.

”It gives the (players) a chance to meet and learn from other players across the country, and also they get to play with a wooden bat, which is very different than playing in the traditional metal bat leagues.

”Our roster will consist of mostly (NCAA) Division I and II players. In those wooden bat leagues you get exposure as there are usually scouts that attend the games regularly.”

Camps will also dot the Bravehearts agenda.

”I will also be in charge of running the three Braveheart baseball camps that summer, where they anticipate there will be 100-200 kids in attendance at each camp,” Edwards said.

Edwards can’t wait to get going. But first, he’s ready to help lead West Liberty, coached by Eric Burkle, to a successful 2014 campaign.

”We practically tripled our win total from last total last year in our first year as a staff and we hope, with the kids that we have brought in, we can build on that and keep the program at a high level.”