If you’re good enough, they’ll find you. Ed Charlton Jr. can tell you all about that.
New Jersey Institute of Technology is a fine academic institution, known for engineering and not so much for baseball. Its athletic programs as a whole are known, if at all, only because the basketball team upset Michigan last winter.
That made no difference to Charlton, who made the decision to play at NJIT to be close to home and to play every day. And in doing so, he played himself into professional baseball.
Charlton, an outfielder with the Billings Mustangs, started all 187 games he appeared in his four-year career at NJIT. And after that standout career, he was selected in June in the 23rd round by the Cincinnati Reds.
“They’ll find you,” Charlton said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing. I’ve played on teams, like this, and on summer league teams with guys from big schools. You’ll find out how good you are once you play with them.”
Charlton is fitting in nicely at the next level. Like he did for the Highlanders, he continues to perform at a high level.
He hit the third home run of his career in the first inning Sunday, helping the Mustangs to a 6-5 victory over Great Falls in the first game of a doubleheader at Dehler Park.
The home run was extra special for Charlton, who did it in front of his father, brother and girlfriend who were visiting from New Jersey.
“That’s something special and doesn’t happen too often,” Charlton said between games. “That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. So will they.”
Everyone, however, hopes there are far more memories for the 22-year-old who started in center field in both games Sunday. He was hitting .284 with eight doubles, 15 RBIs and those three home runs going into the second game of the doubleheader.
With the Mustangs, Charlton has displayed the same work ethic that helped him make it from little known NJIT to rookie baseball in the Pioneer League. He’s a hustler, for sure, and seemingly always gets his jersey a bit dirty.
“Ed has always been a hard worker; no one was going to outwork him,” said his father, Ed Charlton, Sr. “Winning came first. He doesn’t like to lose much and when coaches get him on their team, they love that type of player they have. He’s an all-in player. He just keeps trying to get better.”
Charlton, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, had a career .303 average at NJIT, wrapping up his career with a fine senior season. He hit .319 with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 38 RBIs. He also stole 15 bases.
He majored in business, not engineering, at NJIT, but don’t think that means the curriculum was less difficult. He’ll earn his degree with a few more math classes, something he said he hopes to finish soon.
For now, however, it’s all baseball. His playing days at lesser known NJIT are behind him. He’s now on a level playing field with everyone on the Mustangs, a Reds rookie league affiliate.
He can look at a former teammate, too, to let him know the trip upward through the minors is possible. Mark Leiter Jr., who also played for the Highlanders, was selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round in 2013. Leiter now is at Double-A Reading.
Charlton was the first position player and the third player overall selected out of NJIT.
“It’s definitely not the greatest school to go to if you’re looking to just play baseball. It's a tough school,” Charlton said. “But I went in there as a freshman and was kind of the guy. Not a lot of guys get to do that as a freshman. I got 200 at-bats. It was a great opportunity, but this was always the goal.”
Now that he’s made it here, he’s doing all he can to stay. He’s working to make it for himself, even if his college doesn’t have the name recognition.
“We’re happy he’s here in Billings and gotten to where he’s at,” Ed Charlton Sr. said. “Hopefully he can keep getting better and move up the ladder.”