Randy York's N-Sider
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I've never written a column that couldn't be long, and believe me, I could write a small book about pitcher Tatum Edwards and catcher Taylor Edwards, the 18-year-old fraternal twins from Murrieta, Calif., that have taken Nebraska softball by storm in their first 11 games as Huskers.
If you want substantial proof right now or later, make sure you hit the black arrow in their photo above and watch how electrifying the Edwards twins are, whether Taylor is cranking a home run in an NCAA record six straight games or Tatum is blazing fastballs past opposing hitters like she was throwing laser beams.
Tatum isn't just a 2-0 pitcher in her first three starts. She's whacked four home runs herself, giving the twins 11 combined home runs in the Huskers' 10-1 start. Even though Nebraska returns one of the best lineups in school history, the sisters already rank 1-2 on the team in homers, RBIs and, perhaps, name recognition.
I mean, these two have produced a highlight reel in their first 11 college games that might rival someone else's all-conference season.
Normally, we would be wary of over blowing accomplishments, but after spending nearly an hour with them earlier this week, I know this: Tatum and Taylor Edwards would be the same humbled-hearted young women whether they were flying out to center instead of slamming fastballs over the scoreboard, or giving up runs in bundles instead of throwing flames you can't see.
It doesn't take long to realize these two are so wholesome they seem straight out of Disney central casting. They hate to talk about themselves, but are more than willing to talk about their coaches, parents and teammates, not to mention their passion for softball, Nebraska, pets and the positions they play.
Father's Influence is Tattooed to Their Lockers
Perhaps we should share what each has inscribed above their locker at Bowlin Stadium. That might explain where their heads and their hearts really are.
Taylor's mantra says:
Hit the ball hard.
Let everything go.
Tatum's source of inspiration is:
You change the way you play by changing the way you think.
Mmmm. Interesting. As the Huskers take their eight-game winning streak to their home state of California this weekend, let's take a closer look at how Taylor can take the Big 12 Player of the Week honor on an important road trip without feeling extra pressure to perform.
A Hot Tip Helped Nebraska Early in the Recruiting Game
We introduce you to Brian Edwards, the father of the fraternal twins. An electrician by trade, he lit the spark to their softball careers and partnered with his wife, Denise, a nurse, to make sure that Tatum and Taylor optimized every ounce of their potential. For them, there was only one road to a Division 1 scholarship - the Corona (Calif.) Angels, which produces about 10 major college softball signings every year.
Nebraska Head Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle jumped on that same West Coast highway almost as quickly as the Edwards twins and their parents did. The result has produced as unique a Nebraska recruiting story as you will ever read, if not the penultimate Husker recruiting story.
Six years ago, Mike Smith, then 12-year-old Tatum's pitching coach, called Revelle. A native of Pender, Neb., Smith has coached talented softball pitchers for decades in Southern California. He knew then that Tatum was special, and she would be getting all kinds of major scholarship offers early as a high school player.
Smith, of course, was right, and Revelle will be forever grateful for being a good listener and acting on a hot tip years before anyone else even thought about it.
Revelle made sure that Nebraska went to Moline, Ill., to see the Edwards twins play in the age 14 & Under National Softball Tournament. "We were the only school that had a coach there," she said, "so I guess you could say we were a little bit of a trend-setter and got in ahead of the competition."
No question about that, the Edwards twins insisted Tuesday.
"They couldn't talk to us, but we knew Nebraska was there," Tatum said.
"I still remember when we were 13 and looking up into the stands to see a Nebraska coach there," Taylor said. "To see 'em up there just put me in awe."
One Conversation Led to Another and then Another ....
A funny thing happened years later. The Edwards family, knowing that coaches couldn't call them but they could call coaches, decided to dial Revelle on the family cell phone on their way to practice one day. One conversation led to another and suddenly, a friendship formed and a bond developed. Revelle and the twins started sharing stories, philosophies, small talk and sometimes, even a little pitching and hitting strategy.
The conversations were so reinforcing and rewarding that the Edwards twins started calling Revelle almost every Wednesday as their mother drove them to and from softball practice in Corona.
"I bet those calls came in almost every week for a year-and-a-half," Revelle recalled. "I really looked forward to every one of them, not so much because I knew we might have a chance to recruit them, but because both are such tremendous young women. They have huge hearts, and I was privileged to share my college experience with both while, at the same time, I was able to learn about and understand their 'twin-ship'."
Well, guess what? All those conversations were indeed beneficial in the final analysis, even if their sole intent was not recruiting.
The heavily recruited Edwards twins boiled down their offers and decided to visit four schools - Nebraska, Washington, Texas and UCLA.
Their parents wanted their twin daughters to make their own decisions, so they encouraged them to get some poster boards, put down the pros and cons of each school and then figure it all out on their own.
And that's what they did.
Nebraska Felt Like Home and a Place to Grow Up
In the end, Nebraska won out in almost every comparative category the twins considered crucial.
"Nebraska was the first team that saw us, the first team that wrote us a letter and the first team to develop a relationship with us," Taylor said. "When we visited Nebraska, it felt like home. That's what drew us in, and when we broke it all down, it became perfectly clear to us."
Tatum said going to Nebraska was not based on going somewhere just to play softball. "The way we looked at it, this was where we were going to go to grow up," she said. "We looked at every school with that idea in mind, and we just didn't get the same feeling at those other places. Nebraska is a family, and we felt our family would fit as a part of Nebraska's family."
Nebraska's family leans heavily on academic and life skill support. "Our conversations with Nebraska always went beyond the athletic part of it," Taylor said. "That came across every time we talked to Coach Revelle. She was more interested in us as people than softball players."
Revelle doesn't dispute the notion. "The Edwards family came to Nebraska on several unofficial visits before they came on an official visit to compare recruiting offers," she said. "As a family, I think they just felt this was a good, wholesome place where their daughters can grow up, get an education, compete and have fun. At the end of the day, recruiting is more about relationships than anything else."
No wonder the California dreamers who think there's no place like Nebraska don't feel the pressure of playing teams like 10th-ranked Hawaii or No. 25 BYU in front of a large contingent of family members and friends this weekend in Palm Springs, Calif.
It's About Staying Humble, Working Hard, Having Fun
Make no mistake. The NCAA record is an honor. But "It's all about staying humble, working hard and having fun, no matter what happens," Taylor said.
"We're off to a good start," Tatum said, "because we play for each other, not ourselves. That's what we will continue to do every pitch and every at bat."
Tatum didn't have to elaborate on what it means to change the way she plays by changing the way she thinks. For years and years, she's been taught and coached to think and play her way out of the most difficult situations, so big-time competition doesn't really scare her.
The twins' dad, a one-time California state high school pole vaulting champion and six-time world champion in slow pitch softball, helped teach his daughters that delicate balance between pressure and performance.
Their ability to remain unfazed by any situation is, in essence, what has allowed them to fill a two-minute highlight video just 11 games into their careers. And while these two freshmen may not easily be scared, the video at the top of this column has to be a scary sight for future Nebraska opponents ... this season and in the years ahead.
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