When asked about his goals for the Mercersburg Academy baseball team this season, Head Coach Josh Edgin ’06 sticks to the basics:
Win as many as possible.
Less than three walks a game from the pitching side.
Try not to strike out.
At the same time, he looks outside the park as he instills a strong work ethic in his players.
“Respect, work hard–those two things go an extremely long way in life, no matter what job you’re doing. As far as life lessons go, those would be the two biggest things that I try to convey to them,” said Edgin, who joined Mercersburg in 2022 as the assistant manager of athletic facilities. “Nothing worth wanting will be handed to you. If you’re aiming to go to the upper echelon of whatever it is you choose to do, at some point you’re going to have to work your tail off to get it.”
As a former MLB player, Edgin ought to know. He was drafted by the New York Mets in 2010.
“It was a childhood dream coming to reality,” Edgin said of his experience in the major leagues. “It was very difficult, especially family-wise, a lot of traveling. It was basically experiencing the world using a baseball, and learning, meeting people from every facet of life chasing the same dream. It was a whirlwind at times and it was comfortable at times. There was always someone chomping at the bit to take your spot, so there was an extra drive in the matter. Overall, I wouldn’t change any of it. It was an awesome experience.”
After graduating from Mercersburg, Edgin attended The Ohio State University, where he played baseball. After two and a half years at Ohio State, he transferred to Francis Marion University in Florence, SC.
“It was a better fit at the time for what I felt I needed to do to be drafted,” Edgin said. “I wanted to be a starting pitcher, and I didn’t see that happening at Ohio State. I knew some of the guys from Francis Marion and went from there.”
He played two seasons at Francis Marion. He was drafted his first season there by the Atlanta Braves in the 50th round, but opted not to join the Braves organization.
“Then in my senior year, I got drafted by the Mets in the 30th round,” Edgin said.
He played baseball professionally for nine years with the Mets, Nationals, and Orioles systems, including five years in the MLB before retiring in 2019.
Recognizing that “baseball is the hardest numbers game in the world,” Edgin uses the skills he learned playing professionally as he works with Mercersburg players.
“If you can get a hit 3 out of 10 times, that’s Hall of Fame numbers,” Edgin said, contrasting that outcome with a comparison relatable to students: “That’s 30 percent in a class. You’re going to fail more than you succeed. Baseball prepared me and helped me understand how to fail, knowing that after that, I will succeed eventually.”
As Edgin works with his players, he hopes they learn that baseball shouldn’t be their main focus in life, but that it can lead to amazing opportunities in college and professional play.
“I want to create a path to help them achieve it, if that’s what they want,” said Edgin, referring to playing baseball beyond Mercersburg.
When he was drafted by the Mets, it was part of a three-day event.
“I was at the very end of that second day,” Edgin said. “I got a phone call from the Mets organization saying, ‘Hey, if we sign you in the 30th round with this pick, will you sign?’ I said ‘Yes.’”
A left-handed pitcher, Edgin started playing in the Mets rookie league in Kingsport, TN, then climbed the ranks. In 2012, he moved from AA to AAA to Major Leagues in the same year.
When asked what he misses the most about playing major league baseball, Edgin points to the camaraderie in the locker room.
“There were those conversations with a person who grew up just like you did only in a different country with a different language and seeing the different obstacles that led to meeting at the same point,” said Edgin, a native of Three Springs, PA. “Latin American countries have a very different outlook on baseball. [Players are] using it as a ticket out. I don’t think we realize how good our card stack is here sometimes, how fortunate we are as citizens of the United States. We don’t see how fortunate we are, especially in the baseball world, when it comes to trying to accomplish a goal. Without getting too political, we have a lot of people on our side here/resources. We have a backup plan. Some of those kids that play baseball from those areas don’t. It’s a totally different work ethic that they have, because it’s basically now or never for them; whereas, we know that if baseball doesn’t work out, there’s a good chance that we’re most likely going to be OK doing something else. It’s a humbling experience. We lose track of just how fortunate we are, just living where we live.”
Today, Edgin and his family reside in McConnellsburg, PA. He has four children. Prior to Mercersburg, he coached at Scotland Campus and helped with area youth teams.
When asked what he misses the least about playing professional baseball, he said, “the travel and the suitcases. There were times we’d get on a plane at 2 a.m. and land in San Francisco at five o'clock and wake up at 11, get something to eat and then get to the field by 12:30 to play a 7 o'clock game that night. It didn’t happen every trip, but it was very exhausting when those trips did happen. The cross-country trips were the worst because of the time change and the length of the flight.”
His philosophy as a coach is focused on teamwork and effort.
“You can be a great hitter. You can be a great pitcher, but you also have to be an even greater teammate. Superstars who only worry about themselves are not what we’re looking for here at Mercersburg. We’re looking for more of a team/school player,” Edgin said. “Show me that you want to be there, the hustling. Not taking it lightly. For some it’s a PGA (Performance Group Activity) and for others, some of these kids want to go to college to play baseball. There are some who are just playing baseball to play baseball. Whether you’re A or B, we both can meet in the middle and understand that giving 100% and hustling all the time is that middle ground for everybody.
“Anything you do in life, whether it be for your boss or whoever may be above you, they’re going to want to see your hustle, they want to see your best. The best opportunity for [players] to succeed in life is learning how to give their best at everything they do.”
Pitcher Matt Archibald ’23, a postgraduate at Mercersburg, has committed to play baseball at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, next year. Other seniors are talking to schools and hope to play baseball in college.
When asked for his predictions for Mercersburg’s spring season, Edgin is realistic.
“We are upperclassmen heavy. I think we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” Edgin said. “The group of guys we have bleed through and through Mercersburg baseball. We’re going into it with an understanding that we’ll be OK. If we play well, we’ll win. If there are some things that don’t go our way, we’ll be in a middle ground. Are we going to win every game? No. We’ll be optimistic, but we’re going to play hard. If we’re locked in and we’re not walking people, and we’re putting the bat on the ball, that gives us a very good chance to win ball games.”
Football, wrestling, baseball … lacrosse?
At Mercersburg, Edgin initially made an impression as a football player, said Ron Simar, who was Mercersburg’s director of athletics from 1988 to 2008.
Edgin lettered in three sports as a 9th-grader and then again his remaining three years, Simar said, noting that Edgin is one of only 20 to 30 athletes in the history of the school who lettered in 12 seasons: “He would have been able to play college football and wrestle had he not chosen to pursue a career in baseball.”
Edgin’s Mercersburg coaches quickly identified his talents.
“We had no way of knowing at that time how good he was going to be as a wrestler and baseball player,” Simar said. “In fact, our baseball coaches, Karl Reisner and Brent Gift, had no idea that Josh even played baseball until informal throwing sessions in the gym in January and February in preparation for the spring season. He studied the game and possessed the ability to quickly figure things out. Also important was that he didn’t take himself too seriously and realized that sports were meant to be fun. He was the model of good sportsmanship and always exhibited respect for his opponent.”
The coaches were particularly impressed with his work ethic.
“Josh worked hard to develop his pitching talent over his four years here,” said Gift, who was Mercersburg’s assistant baseball coach. “Josh was a very effective lefty, becoming our ace. He was a solid hitter and a most competent first baseman. Josh had fun playing the game while competing fiercely at a high level. It was a genuine pleasure seeing his talent and hard work enable him to rise to the highest level of the game.”
There also was a time when Edgin befriended some lacrosse players and was enticed to play lacrosse instead of baseball, Simar related.
“As a 9th-grader, Josh told his father that he might play lacrosse in the spring. Mr. Edgin was well aware of the baseball talents that Josh possessed and pretty much told Josh that he should stick with baseball. Fortunately, he did,” said Simar, adding an aside: “Josh would have made an outstanding lacrosse player, but then we wouldn’t have seen him get Bryce Harper out with regularity during his Major League career.”
Simar recognizes the many strengths Edgin brings to coaching at Mercersburg.
“While Josh is a teacher and excellent communicator, and I see already that while he is a demanding coach, he is interested in making things fun,” Simar said. “It is evident that Josh loves this place, and I believe him to be a perfect fit for our school community. Mercersburg is indeed fortunate to have him here, hopefully for a long time.”
Gift, who remembers Edgin as a valuable team player, agrees. “Josh will bring his experiences, love and respect for the game to his coaching. Mercersburg players are most fortunate to be coached by Josh. He helped make our baseball program strong as a player and will continue to strengthen it as a coach.”
Edgin also brings to the players his experiences with battling through injury and the balancing act of being a student-athlete, said Marilyn Houck, who was the athletic trainer at Mercersburg from 1986 to 2018. “He sustained a few athletic injuries during his time playing sports at Mercersburg which I treated him for and assisted with his rehab program following surgery. Josh understands the time commitment and also the stress that students face academically. I think he will relate to his players well and is a fine addition to the baseball program. I have enjoyed watching his career, and I am excited to see him back at Mercersburg and what he will bring to the program.”
‘Great to be back’
When asked how it feels to be back on campus as a Mercersburg grad working with Mercersburg students, Edgin, who will be coordinating a new baseball camp for Mercersburg’s Summer Programs, said, “It’s so much cooler being older and being on campus just because there are rooms and places that you didn’t even know what was behind that door and now you do. It’s great to be back. It’s calming. You have a good gauge on what goes on. It’s that much more pride in where you came from.”
The connections he has made at Mercersburg have had a lasting impact.
“The place itself is special, but it’s the people connections that you come back to/keep in contact with that are the ones that really make the difference. The community is rooting for you, whether they know you or not. If you’re wearing the Mercersburg blue, then you’re being rooted for by everyone who lives here. It’s almost like that small town within the small town-type feel. The connections that this place makes are just incredible. They all have your back. Whether they’re coaching you or not, they’re all rooting for you.”
Pictured: Mercersburg Head Baseball Coach Josh Edgin, at right, encourages Caleb Newcomer '23 of Hagerstown during a recent game.