It didn’t take long for University of Wisconsin-Whitewater head baseball coach John Vodenlich to describe the impact senior Cal Aldridge has had on the Warhawks baseball program.
“(Aldridge) is like a Ken Griffey Jr.,” Vodenlich said.
That’s high praise considering Griffey Jr. was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“He’s a guy that is awesome for the organization,” Vodenlich added, “because he is so well-liked and such a good human and has respect from teammates and the people around him.”
The product of Prairie Ridge High School in Illinois is a fierce competitor, but you can often find him with a smile on his face.
When he’s not playing baseball, Aldridge is in the classroom, and he hopes to share his upbeat spirit after college as a special education teacher.
“I love helping kids that I feel don’t get the same opportunities as other kids, and they always put a smile on your face,” Aldridge said.
The senior infielder reminds his coach of Griffey Jr. for his on-field performance and offensive ability.
Opposing pitchers fear him. Outfielders know a towering, long smash from Aldridge is probably going to be steaming their way.
“The thing that separates him the most is he has unbelievable power,” Vodenlich said. “The ball comes off his bat unlike any player I’ve ever coached.”
Aldridge has helped the Warhawks to a 20-6 record so far this season. They won four more games this past weekend to run their winnings streak to 10 games.
Aldridge leads the WIAC with eight home runs. He is second in runs scored (35) and third in total bases (71).
His batting average (.464) and slugging percentage (.845) are tops in the conference.
Part of the reason for the success is Aldridge’s determination and work ethic, Vodenlich said.
If the team has morning batting practice at 10:45 a.m., Aldridge said he tries to get to the field around 8:30 to hit off a tee and work on swing mechanics.
He’s constantly working to get better, something that stems from his early love of baseball.
“I was probably about 4 when I started,” Aldridge said. “I love everything about it. It’s a game that if you understand it, if you take the time to learn it, I don’t think there’s a better game.”
His coach said Aldridge is constantly learning.
“The really cool thing about Cal is that he’s hitting so well right now, but his swing is better than it was two weeks ago, so this isn’t even the best he is going to be,” Vodenlich said. “He is really going to keep improving.”
And for Aldridge, there’s no better place to get better or play baseball than Whitewater.
“It was the best decision of my life to come here,” he said.
“Our conference is one of, if not the best in the nation, my teammates are the best friends I’ll have for the rest of my life and the coaches are amazing, too. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Griffey Jr. is an all-time great across the sport. For Whitewater baseball and Vodenlich, Aldridge is the same.
“You can simply total up all the wins from 2015 to today and know a lot of that had to do with him,” said Vodenlich, whose team is 123-40 since the start of the 2016 season.
“He’s one of the best players to ever don a Warhawk uniform.”