Aldridge persistent in quest to big leagues

Aldridge persistent in quest to big leagues

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cory Aldridge is 30 years old with five Major League at-bats in 13 professional seasons, but he pushes forward nonetheless, striving to fulfill a dream in the Angels' camp as a non-roster invitee.

Aldridge's motivation for drawing a big league paycheck is fundamental.

"I've got [three] kids, a family to take care of," he said.

He's never made it to the big money, having started his career in the Atlanta organization in 1997, but the left-handed hitter with the smooth power stroke has never stopped trying.

"He's been impressive," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He can swing the bat, and he's made some terrific plays in the outfield."

One of those plays has Aldridge sore on his entire right side, from the shoulder down past the knee. He took a double away from the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez on Monday at Camelback Ranch, and the pain in multiple locations remains.

"It's getting better," he said, easing into a chair. "I can play."

Signed as a Minor League free agent in December, the native Texan figures to open the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. The Angels, typically, have a crowd of talented outfielders, and Aldridge is trying to nudge his way through.

He came into Thursday with a .346 Cactus League batting average, having doubled twice and homered twice. He can drive the ball to all fields, and his glove work has surprised Scioscia.

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"You can see he's a veteran who understands what to do in the batter's box," Scioscia said. "What's especially impressed us is the defense he's playing. The reports were he had good offense but at the defensive end was trying to find his game. He's worked hard on the defensive end and has played very well defensively."

At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Aldridge has the body of a football player. That's what he was, naturally, growing up in Texas and attending Abilene Cooper High School. He played wide receiver and favored defense, where he excelled.

Aldridge has two younger brothers who are premium football prospects in high school in Tyler, Tex., home of the great Earl Campbell. Their father, Jerry Aldridge, was a running back for the San Francisco 49ers in 1980.

"No. 47," Aldridge said, grinning.

It was baseball all the way for Aldridge, who was taken in the fourth round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft at 18. He had Minor League seasons where he hit as many as 30 homers and stole as many as 16 bases, but the talent in Atlanta -- and a run of injuries -- held him back.

His lone experience in a Braves uniform was in 2001, when he was hitless in five at-bats.

"Since that time," Aldridge said, "injuries caused me to miss basically a couple of years. My shoulder got to the point where I wasn't supposed to be able to play. It was wear and tear. I tried to play through it and got hurt trying to do other things to get on the field.

"I kept going, because there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I like playing. Then again, there's the business part of it. Just having a chance to play every day, show what I can do, that's all I'm asking for. You're playing [to impress] 29 other teams, winter ball teams, Asian leagues.

"I have kids. Somewhere, some way, I want to make some money. The Angels have given me an opportunity. My goal is to get to the big leagues and make some money to support my family. I just hope I can be blessed."

Diving for Ramirez's drive, Aldridge said he "hit the concrete out there. I just got out there in the seventh inning, and the first ball is Manny's."

Aldridge has come back so many times, he's tired of hearing, "Hang in there," from teammates and friends.

"I've had enough bouncing back," he said. "I want to settle down."

Camryn, Asa and Alex, his children, form his biggest cheering section.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.