Ty Edwards speaks with a smile outside the chain link fence at Harris County’s baseball field.
The diminutive shortstop answers every question, obliges the photographer who wants a photo and politely shakes hands when the interview is over. Then, quick as he can, he sprints onto the field for the stretches he was missing with his team.
That diamond, he said, is home, a place where he feels comfortable. Even menial tasks such as stretching and fielding grounders are important to a player who holds the game in such high esteem.
“I fell in love with it when I was young,” said Edwards, who began playing at 4 years old. “I love everything about it. I love the competition.”
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At 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, Edwards doesn’t inspire visions of athletic prowess, at least not at the outset. Once he takes his position in the middle of the infield, however, he is smooth and efficient. After a ball touches his glove, it doesn’t pick up another speck of dirt.
“He’s not a guy you’ll pick out physically,” Tigers coach Steve Westmoreland said. “He’s a smaller kid. The more you watch, though, the more you see what a good player he is.”
Westmoreland talks about the five coveted tools for position players in baseball: hitting for average, hitting for power, running the bases, fielding and throwing abilities. While Edwards may not be getting attention from professional scouts, when it comes to high school ball, Westmoreland says his shortstop fits the bill.
Edwards, who leads off the order, is hitting .342 with an on-base percentage of .460 and 24 runs scored to help lead Harris County to a 9-2 region record, good enough for first place over 8-2 teams Hardaway and Northside.
His consistency in key positions offensively and defensively has made a huge difference for the Tigers, who graduated 14 players from last year’s region championship squad.
“You’ve got to have someone who is steady,” Westmoreland said. “You have to have someone who you can count on at leadoff and shortstop. That’s what he’s given us. He just goes about his business. He believes in his ability.”
Edwards has embraced his role, which he took over this season. He started at second base as a junior and hit lower in the order, but proved he was ready for the responsibility this season.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge. It’s on you to get momentum going on your side.”
The numbers and Westmoreland both say he’s performed that task well. Westmoreland stressed the importance of Edwards getting the most out of his ability. Edwards said it was just a matter of doing whatever he could to get on base and work the pitcher.
“I never want to be an easy out,” he said.
Asked how his season has gone, though, Edwards remained humble, offering a shrug.
“I’m doing alright,” he said. “I could probably do better.”
Perhaps he could. Right now, Harris County needs whatever he can provide.
The Tigers are locked in a three-way battle for first place in Region 1-AAAAA with four league games remaining, two each against Northside and Hardaway.
All four games will hold playoff implications. It’s a perfect situation for a player like Edwards, who enjoys so much about the game.
“It’s fun,” Edwards said. “Everything matters now. Now is the time to play your best.”
Edwards said he has options to continue to play ball after high school. Right now, he is deciding between Georgia Southwestern and LaGrange College.
Either is fine with him.
“Anywhere I can keep playing,” he said with a smile.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.