April 12, 2011 8:54:00 AM
Relentless is great way for a coach to describe a player.
Tyler Aldridge has earned that moniker from East Mississippi Community College baseball coach because he is living up to standards higher than he set for himself.
The former Caledonia High School standout is second among EMCC regulars with a .349 batting average. He leads the Lions in hits (38), runs (22), RBIs (15), is tied for first in home runs (two) and triples (two), and is second in doubles (seven).
"Since day one, our coaches have stressed about never giving in and never giving up and without pain you''re not doing anything," Aldridge said. "You practice like you play. It''s our whole team. We focus on the first pitch and every single pitch and winning every one from the rest of the game to the end, and being relentless in it."
Aldridge''s attitude has been a consistent motivator for EMCC, which lost a doubleheader to Itawamba C.C. on Sunday to fall to 10-23 and 8-6 in the MACJC North Division. EMCC will try to regroup Wednesday when it plays at Mississippi Delta in a doubleheader.
Rose, the former head coach at Meridian C.C., is in his first year at EMCC and is working on changing the mind-set in a program. He said part of that work involved talking with the players to get them to buy into his approach.
With Aldridge, Rose saw immediately a hard-working player who had untapped potential. He talked with Aldridge at the end of the fall season about setting individual and team goals and discovered a change needed to be made.
"I think the key to his game is raising the expectation level for himself," Rose said. "He wanted to do well, but I think he had to be pushed to realize what is doing good for him and how good he can really be and setting those expectations as high as possible. We just keep setting the bar higher and higher. He has really carried us."
Rose said the Lions started the season exceptionally slow on offense, but Aldridge, who plays second base, has helped set the tone at the top of the order. Typically, a hitter who is productive as Aldridge would hit in the No. 3 spot, Rose said, but he has opted to use Aldridge''s aggressive approach to show the rest of the players how he wants them to attack the baseball.
"He can excel at every position on the field," Rose said. "He can be a phenomenal catcher or play anywhere in the infield. He would be one of our top four pitchers if we used him on the mound."
Aldridge said he set his goals where he thought he could reach them and was "shocked" when he learned what Rose believed he could do. He said he was amazed because he never considered himself that good of a hitter.
"It showed me how good of a hitter I can be," Aldridge said of Rose''s expectations. "I just never thought about me in the process."
Aldridge credits his coaches and his teammates for helping him be so productive. He said everyone on the team helps set the tone and that he is just doing his part to help the Lions reverse their fortunes.
"I just want to be a hard-nosed player and play hard and practice hard every pitch," Aldridge said. "Hopefully that will take me somewhere."
Rose feels Aldridge has the potential to play at a high level Division I school. He said where Aldridge winds up will depend on the needs of that program, but he said Aldridge''s versatility will make him more appealing to coaches.
It also doesn''t hurt to have a relentless attitude.
"If someone called and wanted Tyler Aldridge to be a part of their team he would make an impact because that is how good he is," Rose said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.