'I was crying': Eldridge relishes two-way opportunity with Giants

July 11th, 2023

A year ago, Bryce Eldridge sat at his home in Vienna, Va., and watched two-way standout Reggie Crawford be selected by the Giants with the 30th overall pick of the 2022 Draft.

The moment ultimately served as a window into Eldridge’s future, as the right-handed pitcher/first baseman out of James Madison High School (Va.) will now get a chance to join Crawford as a two-way player in the Giants' organization.

San Francisco selected the 18-year-old Eldridge with the 16th overall pick of the 2023 MLB Draft on Sunday, marking the second consecutive year the club used its first-round pick on a two-way player. Eldridge was moved to tears when he heard his name called by the Giants, soaking in the big milestone while surrounded by nearly 50 friends and family members.

“It was such a surreal moment for all of us,” Eldridge said Monday during a Zoom call with reporters. “My buddies were crying, I was crying, my whole family was crying. I couldn’t even put into words what the emotions were like. But it was a day none of us will ever forget. It still doesn’t feel real to me.”

Eldridge said one of the first people who reached out to congratulate him was Crawford, who is currently pitching every five days and hitting once a week at Single-A San Jose. The Giants have been treading carefully with Crawford, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, but they believe the 6-foot-7, 223-pound Eldridge has the physical tools and athleticism to follow a similar path and perhaps one day develop into a true two-way star like Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani.

“He reached out to me last night, which was pretty cool,” Eldridge said of Crawford. “It was one of the first messages I saw. I got his number. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with him, getting to work with him, and kind of getting to pick his brain a little bit on the whole two-way thing. I remember watching him in my house get drafted last year. Watching him last year do that was awesome because it was something I was looking forward to doing, getting drafted as a two-way player. I’ve known the name for a while, and now I get to be buddies with him, be teammates with him. I’m pumped up for that.”

The Giants began tracking Eldridge two years ago, when they made regular visits to James Madison High School to scout his teammate, James Triantos, a second-round pick of the Cubs in 2021. They began having conversations in November or December, with the Giants sending scouts to nearly all his high school games this year, when he logged a 1.06 ERA with 66 strikeouts over 39 2/3 innings on the mound and batted .422 with eight home runs and a 1.716 OPS at the plate.

Eldridge, the 2022-23 Gatorade Virginia Baseball Player of the Year, reaches 95-96 mph with his fastball and features a promising slider and changeup, but he estimated that half the teams he spoke with wanted to develop him strictly as a hitter, where he’s flashed big power with a short, left-handed swing that he’s tried to model after Phillies star Bryce Harper. He’s grateful that the Giants are willing to give him a chance to do both and eager to embark on the next chapter of his baseball journey. While he was recruited by the University of Alabama, Eldridge said he plans to forgo the commitment and turn pro.

“The Giants are a very intriguing organization to get drafted to,” Eldridge said. “I was always interested. There’s always been interest there with them. I’m super blessed to be a part of this organization.”

Elridge’s two-way exploits have prompted some around the baseball community to dub him the “American Ohtani,” but he’s hoping he’ll be able to make a name for himself with the Giants in the future.

“I’m never going to complain about getting compared to the best player in baseball right now,” Eldridge said. “Obviously, we’re a long way from there. There’s a lot more work left to be done, but he’s been someone who I’ve looked up to since he’s come to America, so I don’t mind it. But I want to be Bryce Eldridge, not the American Shohei. I want to be able to leave a big mark on the game in my own way.”