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Taylor Edens of the Rockbridge Rapids (Lexington, Va.) keeps an eye on the runner during a recent home game against the New Market Rebels in the Valley Baseball League.
Taylor Edens of the Rockbridge Rapids (Lexington, Va.) keeps an eye on the runner during a recent home game against the New Market Rebels in the Valley Baseball League.

NSA alum sets sights on MLB

Published 5:46pm Saturday, July 6, 2013

Former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball standout Taylor Edens enjoyed success as a relief pitcher in his freshman year at the Virginia Military Institute and now is turning heads in a summer league known as the “Gateway to the Majors.”

Edens’ pitching for the Rockbridge Rapids in the Valley Baseball League recently merited him a roster spot in the league’s all-star game being played today at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg.

“It’s a great honor,” Edens said of his selection. He enjoyed seeing the pay-off to “all the hard work that I’ve put into baseball and pitching” and expressed a desire to “just make the most of it and enjoy it.”

It has been a tough season so far for the Rapids, which are next-to-last in the six-team South Division with an 11-17 record as of July 5, but head coach Greg Keaton is counting Edens as one of his blessings.

“We haven’t won a ton, but when we have, he’s usually had a hand in it,” Keaton said.

He said what any pitcher would love to hear when asked what Edens brings to the team: “A low ERA for one, and a lot of innings pitched with nobody scoring.”

As of July 5, Edens had played in 10 games and pitched 28.2 innings of relief for the Rapids, producing a 2.19 earned run average, a 3-0 record and 19 strikeouts.

Keaton had been anticipating Edens’ all-star selection.

“He deserves it, and when they chose the team, the stats spoke for themselves,” he said.

Edens credited his Division I and summer league success to two things.

“I’ve put in a lot of work, and my senior year in high school helped playing with Coach (David) Mitchell.”

“We’re all excited for Taylor,” Mitchell said.

Edens is participating in the Valley Baseball League because he said playing summer ball is an important first step in fulfilling his dream of going pro.

“It’s a good place to work on my pitches and get better as a player and improve my draft stock,” he said.

Mitchell agreed.

“It’s a very reputable league, and it’s recognized by a lot of professional scouts,” he said.

It was formed in 1923 and became a National Collegiate Athletic Association-sanctioned league in 1961. The VBL is even funded, in part, by a Major League Baseball grant and has produced more than 1,000 professional baseball players.

It also switched to wooden bats in 1993, the only type of bat allowed in the MLB. Mitchell said wooden bats cater to one of Edens’ strengths as a pitcher.

He can throw a fastball that looks to the batter like it is headed across the middle of the plate, but ends up sinking low in the air and curving toward the batter. The ball ends up connecting near the right-handed hitters’ hands rather than the end of the bat.

Since the ball does not pop off a wooden bat like it does a metal one, “instead of being a solid line drive, it turns into a weak ground ball,” Mitchell said.

While Edens hopes the VBL bolsters his pro prospects, he expects this time facing elite hitters to affect his college play, as well.

“(It’s) definitely forced me to improve a lot in a short amount of time,” he said. “It’s going to really help me later on, especially next season.”

With senior players having graduated at VMI, Edens has the opportunity to take a more important role next spring. In 2013, he made 16 appearances on the mound and pitched 25 innings for the Keydets, ending with a 2.52 ERA.

 

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