Aldridge eyeing the next level
With help from White Sox, second baseman to pursue dream at Grambling
Simeon senior Charles Aldridge dreams, like any high school baseball player, to play in the majors one day.
Whether or not that happens, Aldridge at his young age has already had more Major League Baseball-type experiences than even most minor-leaguers.
Aldridge's first taste of the big-time came July 9 when he got to play at U.S. Cellular Field in the second annual Double Duty Classic. His second moment arrived Tuesday when White Sox general manager Ken Williams surprised Aldridge, a member of the White Sox Amateur City Elite team, and personally congratulated him on receiving a scholarship to play baseball next season at Grambling State University in Louisiana.
"I can't tell you how excited I am about this young man's success," Williams said. "This is the reason we have invested in these inner-city baseball initiatives."
Aldridge impressed Grambling with his academics and his play. He holds a 3.6 grade-point average and is ranked 17th in his class. On the field, Aldridge is known for his all-around ability.
Defensively at second base, he is quick and allows very few balls past him. At the plate, he's a threat to get on base at any time -- he hit nearly .300 last season for Simeon -- and can make a pitcher's life miserable with his speed.
"He's a fast player," Simeon coach Robert Fletcher said. "He can hit; he can hit for power; he has a strong arm. He's a good player. He's slim. He has a lot more room to build muscle on his body. The sky's the limit for him."
Aldridge grew up idolizing New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and lately added White Sox rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham to his list of favorite players. Aldridge views his scholarship to Grambling as a stepping stone to playing alongside his heroes someday.
"It gives me an opportunity to play at the next level," Aldridge said. "It gives me a chance to pursue my dream of going to the major leagues."
Aldridge has his way of looking at it, but Fletcher and Williams see Grambling as a different sort of opportunity, one that not all of Chicago's inner-city youth receive.
"The kid is getting an education first," Fletcher said. "Everything else will take care of itself."
Williams said: "It's an unfortunate fact that several of these talented players can't afford the opportunities others are given, whether it be a lack of funds, or simply exposure. So it's really a thrill when we hear a story like Charles Aldridge, where he was able to take advantage of the opportunities provided to him through the ACE team and earn a college education. He embodies what we hope to achieve through the Amateur City Elite and our other youth baseball programs."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.