From when he was little, Carl Edwards always told his son: “C.J., things are going to work out better for you because of what me and my brothers were able to do coming up. We never had the money to send him to play travel ball. (cont.)
Carl Edwards cont.: "But I said, ‘You can learn from us what they’re going to teach you anyway. They just give you exposure.’ “
Faith Edwards, C.J.'s mom: “My motto to him is always put God first and everything else will fall into place.” Faith is a minister at Lever AME Church and works part-time at a pizza restaurant in nearby Chapin, S.C.
Faith Edwards on her two sons not being able to keep weight on: “Whenever it’s the four of us there, we have to fix our plates first because they’ll be having an eating contest. They eat. Lord knows they eat."
If C.J. get to the big leagues – “when” he gets there, says his mom – he might finally put Prosperity on some of those maps. | Photos by Gordon Wittenmyer/Sun-Times Media
Carl Edwards stands outside the house where C.J. was raised. | Photos by Gordon Wittenmyer/Sun-Times Media
“My uncle gave me the ball and looked at me and he said, `You want this? You ready?’ I looked at my uncle. ‘Yes sir. My last name is Edwards. I was always ready for this.’ “ -- On his first game pitching in the local adult “Bush League” when he was 15.
C.J.: “I look back and I think ‘Bush League’ a lot. Playing ball there, they rag me hard. They weren’t like cursing at me; they didn’t criticize. They were just, `Aw, you ain’t got nothing’. They just talking junk. …
More CJ: "If I have a bad game or have a couple bad starts and teams start ragging, `You sorry, you this,’ then I won’t go in a shell and hide. I know how to accept it instead of running away from it.”
Faith Edwards: “My motto to him is always put God first and everything else will fall into place.”
The Rutherford Night Club sits just outside the field where Edwards was discovered.
C.J. (back row) still sings in the church choir where his mom is a minister.
“He’s like our celebrity in town. We’re all behind C.J. We’re all happy for C.J.” --Kayla Dewelt, former high school classmate
“He knows where he comes from. He’s got a great family, wonderful parents. … He’s precious. I couldn’t love him anymore if I gave birth to him.” --Sherry "White Mama" Bedenbaugh, who's son, Will, was C.J.'s best friend and was killed in 2010 car accident
Mark Bowers, who owns the Bowers BP station in town, where Faith used to work, said he can’t remember anyone in his 59 years making it big out of Prosperity. “I think there was a junior college basketball player, but I can’t think of his name.”
CJ: “The only coach I ever had is my dad (pictured). Growing up, that’s the only pitching coach I ever listened to. Because he knows. My dad was an outstanding pitcher. He just got hurt. … I’m living my dad’s dream.”
Carl Edwards, who pitched for Mid Carolina: “As he got into the minor leagues, he was telling me, `Daddy, they want me to do this and do that.’ I tell him you got to work with what they tell you ... (cont.)
... but if you see that it’s not working while you’re in the game, go back to what you know to do to throw strikes.” (The trophy case inside the Edwards house)
“He’s a better person than he is a pitcher. He was raised in the country, raised by good people. ... They’re just such great people. Just good hard-working country people.” -- Louie Alexander, C.J.’s high school football and baseball coach
“He’s my role model,” says younger brother Chris, now a senior in high school, who remembers C.J. taking him to a field to hit him grounders when he was small. “He always tells me he wants me to be better than he was.”
Daytona Cubs manager Dave Keller: "He has goals. He has a plan in mind of what he wants to do and how he wants to go about it ... he doesn't just want to be a pitcher in the big leagues. He wants to be somebody who makes a difference."
Chris Kemp, Texas Rangers area scout and JC coach:
“I went to watch him play basketball. I wanted to know what kind of athlete we had. He got out on a fast break, went up for a two-handed tomahawk dunk – and just the elevation and bounce in his step ...
More Kemp: . I said, this is a plus athlete we have here. … I thought if we could get 30 pounds on this kid, something good could happen.
“It was very bittersweet for me that day that we traded him. I was almost getting emotional ...
More from Chris Kemp, the scout who found C.J.: "The whole city of Chicago’s going to love him. Once he gets there, he’s going to blow people away just with what kind of down home genuine person he is.”