When Bobby Carr arrived at Edgewood Academy in 2002, one of the first things he did was construct a new backstop for Billy Skinner Field.
While his intent was simply to improve the facilities, the symbolic gesture was to build on the foundation of a championship program that had been started a year earlier by Terry Adkins.
“There used to just be a chain-link backstop,” the Edgewood football and baseball coach recalled. “The first thing we did was put the cinder blocks up (for the backstop), and we’ve done something different every year. Me and our (then) junior high coach, Eddie Ziegler, did it.”
The latest improvement is a metal wall surrounding the field with a huge center field backdrop. The center field wall was brought in 30 feet (to 370 feet) and the four-foot fence was increased 15 feet with the new backdrop that was installed in December.
“The way I’ve always looked at things is if you’re not going forward, you’re going backward,” Carr said. “We don’t ever want to sit still. You can’t sit back and be complacent. The challenge is to continue to keep this (championship) thing here. And it goes hand-in-hand with our facilities. John Sullivan came in this year from Southern Roofing and did a great job with his crew to put this fence up, (on) their time and their money. We’re fortunate to have parents like that.”
Edgewood (28-3) continues to move forward, winning its 26th game in the last 27 outings with a 7-6 comeback victory over Glenwood on Monday.
Carr also recorded his 500th victory, a remarkable accomplishment for a coach in just his 18th year.
“It goes to show you what kind of talent we’ve had here at Edgewood,” Carr said. “Edgewood’s always been a good baseball program, even before I came here. Terry Adkins won the first state championship here (in 2001), and we came in and challenged the kids: ‘The bar is here.’ And their job, every year, is to continue to hold it there. And that’s pretty difficult because kids today tend to get complacent.”
Carr gives a lot of credit to Mark Hastings, who started the upward trend in Edgewood baseball, and Adkins as well as the assistants who have served with him over the years. He started his baseball coaching career in 1997 at New Life Christian Academy in Millbrook, recording a 95-21 record, before coming to Edgewood in 2002.
“We were 2-7 to start the season, and I think they were ready to run me out of town,” said Carr, a former minor leaguer in the New York Mets organization. “I heard a lot of people (saying), ‘He’s just a football coach.’ But we won the next 23 out of 25 to win a state championship.”
The Wildcats added to the trophy case in 2004 and 2006 before starting the current streak of five consecutive AISA state championships in 2009. And that foundation that Carr built in 2002 began to sway players away from other programs in the River Region who knew that playing on an Edgewood Academy team meant contending for a state championship every year.
“We’ve had almost 50 guys sign baseball scholarships,” Carr said. “Our job is to get these guys ready for the next level so, yeah, we’ll have kids from Montgomery, Prattville, Millbrook, Wetumpka. It’s not just in this little Elmore County area. A lot of that goes back to what we’ve built.”
And accompanying the championship trophy each year is another improvement to Billy Skinner Field. Stadium seating was on the agenda for this year but will wait until the end of the current season. There also are plans to build an indoor practice facility adjacent to the Wildcats’ dugout on the third base side of the field.
“It really improves the way you play,” said senior Taylor Hawthorne, the Wildcats’ high-profile pitcher and shortstop who had a handful of professional scouts on hand to watch him play Monday. “Playing on a not-so-good field, you kind of go through the motions sometimes, but being blessed with what we have now is a great opportunity. … I think it’s one of the better places to play.”
Hawthorne scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch Monday after the Wildcats had squandered a 5-0 lead.
Lost in the postgame presentation of a plaque honoring Carr’s achievement was the Wildcats’ third straight victory this season over the state’s traditional AISA baseball power.
“It means a lot,” said Hawthorne, who went 2-for-3 and was the winning pitcher. “I’ve been with Coach Carr since I was in the eighth grade. He’s more like a dad to me than a coach. I’m with him more than I am with my own family, and seeing him come out with his 500th win and me being a part of it means a lot to me.”
Carr’s career record now stands at 500-142, and 405-93 at Edgewood.
“I think they wanted to see me get on the edge a little bit,” Carr joked. “I was kind of laid-back, and when we gave up the five-run lead, I was a little on the edge there. But we found a way and that’s what good teams do.
“We’ve got something special going here at Edgewood. Fortunately, I’ve just been blessed with a lot of good players and some great assistant coaches.”