BOONVILLE — Tim Edwards was thrilled to return to his alma mater to coach baseball at Boonville High School last spring. It was a chance to return to his hometown, a city he said carries a tradition as a baseball town.
What took place over the next year was something Edwards said even he couldn’t have scripted better.
Webb City (23-5) vs. Boonville (21-2) WHEN: 1 p.m. Friday WHERE: Meador Park in Springfield ONLINE: The game can be listened to on the MSHSAA Internet Network at mshsaanetwork.com
“To get the head baseball position in my hometown was really exciting,” Edwards said. “Even though the high school program didn’t have a whole lot of history, there’s been some good baseball in Boonville for a long time.”
Edwards was set to take over as assistant coach for the Boonville Pirates baseball team, but in May 2007, then-head coach Fred Smith stepped down to become the head coach for Central Methodist University. Edwards became Smith’s replacement for this season. Despite the promotion, Edwards said he was disappointed about missing the chance to coach alongside Smith.
“I respect Fred a lot, and he’s done a great job, and I wanted to be able to work with him,” Edwards said. “This was the second time he’s done that to me, because he did the same thing when I went to Northwest (Hughesville High School) to be his assistant down there.”
It had been awhile since Edwards was involved with Boonville baseball. The only baseball Edwards played was in the Babe Ruth League , a summer program offered to kids in the Boonville area. Between the time he graduated from Boonville in 1987 and the time he accepted the coaching job there years later, he coached at Fayette, Clopton, Northwest Hughesville and Warsaw high schools.
It didn’t take long, though, to become familiar again with Boonville baseball. When he returned to Boonville, he moved into the home his family lived in when he was growing up. The house is just a couple hundred feet from the batting cage at Harley Park, where the team plays its home games.
Being close to the ballpark growing up helped him develop an interest in baseball.
“I would go up there at midnight and run the bases,” Edwards said. “Chasing foul balls all summer, that’s how I lived when I was 12 years old, and spent all the money back at the concession stand.”
Now Edwards is coaching at the field where he used to play. Since he had been away from the community for many years, he wanted to get a feel for what kind of players he would be coaching. He knew exactly what to do.
He went to Harley Park last summer to watch his future players in Babe Ruth baseball action.
“I got to know as many of them as I could last summer,” Edwards said. “I’ve been a beneficiary of the summer program that was in place.”
Before the 2008 season began, Edwards told his team something they hadn’t heard from their previous coaches. It seemed impossible, but it also gave the team a goal heading into the season.
Edwards told them he expected the team to win every game this season.
“A big part of coaching is getting the kids to believe in themselves,” Edwards said. “When do you ever show up to a game and say, ‘Well, I just don’t think we can win today?’ You always have to have in your mind that you can get it done.”
Senior catcher Dustin Ray knew exactly what Edwards was talking about. Since Boonville baseball’s first year, no team has had a losing season. However, only one team went on to win a district championship. In 2002, the Pirates made it as far as the Class 3 quarterfinals before losing to Platte County High School, the team that went on to win the state championship.
Ray said he knew Edwards wanted to add to that district championship list and then some.
“I didn’t take his comment as being cocky,” Ray said. “Every comment he makes is sincere and everything that comes out of his mouth he truly believes. He knows what we’re capable of.”
This season’s Pirates have nearly lived up to Edwards’ goal. They are 21-2 after easily winning the Class 3 District 13 championship, along with state playoff victories over Excelsior Springs and Harrisonville.
“It’s one of those deals where I think everything is falling into place with Tim,” said Terry Davis, Boonville athletic director. “It’s a combination of the players and things going right. You’ve got to have a little luck to get this far, and we’ve had some luck.”
One thing Ray said he enjoyed about Edwards was that he respected the Pirates’ traditions and routines rather than trying to create his own system.
“That’s what I look for in a coach, is somebody who can take what we have and build from it,” Ray said.
In his first season with Boonville, Edwards has taken the program the farthest it has been since its inception. But he considers this just the beginning.
“A program like this doesn’t just happen overnight, and it doesn’t go away just because you graduate some talent,” Edwards said. “In a program like this, you develop your younger kids. We did a Little League clinic over the winter and worked with some of those coaches to try to teach them how to teach the game to those younger kids. When you do that, then for the long term, the program is in place.”
Most importantly, his first season isn’t over yet. For Edwards, and for Boonville, their most important games will take place this weekend in Springfield.
And Edwards will be the first one to tell you that his team is ready. More than ready.