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Is Virginia baseball phenom Bryce Eldridge the next Shohei Ohtani?

Madison High School's two-way player is expected to go in the first round of the 2023 MLB draft.

VIENNA, Va. — On any given game day in Vienna, Virginia, you’ll likely see dozens of Major League Baseball scouts gathering along the fence at James Madison High School’s baseball field. All of them are eager to witness the star power behind 18-year-old Bryce Eldridge.  

Eldridge stands above the rest in more ways than one. He's 6-foot-7, throws a 96-mile-per-hour fastball with ease and can hit any pitch out of the park from the plate.

“I haven’t had a kid with the tools that [Bryce] has, and the size he has," says Madison head coach Mark "Pudge" Gjormand. "He's the only one I’ve had like this."

There are few pitches he can’t hit, and few who can hit him. 

He's solidified himself as one of the most dominant two-way high school players in the sport, and that has many scouts, baseball general managers, coaches and fans comparing him to MLB's greatest two-way player, Shohei Ohtani.

"It’s a good feeling when you can help your team out on both sides of the ball, because not many people can do that,” Eldridge said. 

Ohtani, nicknamed "the unicorn," became the first player in the modern era to qualify for both pitching and hitting leaderboards in a single season. 

"It’s kind of surreal," Eldridge said of the comparison.  "I mean, you get compared to the guy who’s easily the best player in baseball -- he’s the first one to hit and pitch at a Cy Young/MVP level -- so it’s pretty cool." 

Eldridge battled an ankle injury early in his senior season, but as he helps his team navigate through the postseason, he is currently batting .410, with an on base percentage (OBP) of .587, seven home runs, 22 runs batted in (RBI), and he's only struck out five times. 

On the mound, he's managed to hold an earned runs average (ERA) of .83, with 55 strikeouts through 33.2 innings pitched in seven appearances, going 7-0. Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that he's only given up four earned runs all season. 

“The mentality you have to have on the mound is 'I’m better than you, here’s my stuff, see if you can hit it,' and it has worked out for me these last couple of year," Eldridge said of his mindset as a pitcher. 

Gjormand has known Eldridge for nearly a decade, and said the teen's hitting prowess has been obvious since he first saw him play Little League. 

"He’s been a hitter since I first saw him play at 9-years-old -- I used to coach against him in Little League All-Stars," Gjormand said. 

Statistics show less than one percent of those who once played Little League make it into the MLB. But Eldridge, and those in his Fairfax County community, believe.

“I’m prepared for it," the high schooler said. "I have a good idea of what this whole thing is going to be like. This is my dream and I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I get." 

Eldridge has met with nearly every MLB team in the past few months, and is projected to go in the first round of the draft starting July 9. 

"I sat down in my house with either 26 or 28 teams in the span of about three weeks," Eldridge said. "That was a grind, but I've gotten to know guys with almost every team, so I have some relationships with wherever I might go. 

He and his family were invited to attend the draft in person in Seattle, Washington. But, he says, he wants to experience draft night surrounded by family and friends in the community that raised him. 

"This is a great town, it's a great sports town, and a great community here," Eldridge said of Vienna. "Everyone has just been so supportive. It's pretty surreal that I get to be in this situation but it’s also a blessing."

"Pudge" as Coach Gjormand is known to most, is anxiously waiting to see which team will select his star player 

“On draft night, it’s going to be special because he’s special," Gjormand said.

Pudge has coached Madison High School baseball for nearly three decades, and has been an instrumental figure in developing Eldridge into the player he is today. 

"This dude has been the man," Eldridge said of his coach. "He's been a great mentor for me, and not just me, really everyone who comes through here. He has guys who graduate out of here and he marries them! That shows you the type of guy he is. He's taught me how to be a leader, which is really important at the next level and I could not be more thankful for him." 

While Eldridge has a mental countdown to the MLB draft, his first priority is helping his team win another state championship, something he accomplished his sophomore season at Madison,  and something Coach Pudge believes his group of guys can accomplish again. 

"There's no guarantee, but in terms of winning it with him, and my son Trevor is on this team, it's a special group," Gjormand said. "I'm just so excited for Bryce and July will take care of itself. It just wouldn't make sense if he's not taken in the first round." 


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