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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

A Man in Uniform

Former Monroe star Eldridge went from a baseball career to a patrol car with the LAPD.

July 22, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

From the time he was 5 and playing T-ball at Mission Hills Little League, Brian Eldridge has been plotting his future.

"I think a lot of people don't know what they're going to do with their life," he said. "I wanted to be a baseball player."

For 20 years, through Little League, high school, college and the minor leagues, Eldridge followed his dream.

"I gave it everything I had," he said.

Then came the moment every professional athlete must face--when to call it quits. In the spring of 1995, after he didn't get out of class-A in three years as a pro, Eldridge gave up baseball. He was 25.

"I thought it was time to get on with my life and get a real job," he said.

So Eldridge decided to become a teacher or coach, right?

Nope. Encouraged by a suggestion from his future wife, Eldridge took a test for candidates seeking to join the Los Angeles Police Department.

The former All-City shortstop at Monroe High, star player in the 1988 City 4-A championship game at Dodger Stadium, former All-American second baseman at Oklahoma and 12th-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics is now LAPD Officer Brian Eldridge, badge No. 15245.

From 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. five nights a week, he patrols the streets of Rampart Division, the busiest and most violent division in Los Angeles.

"I love this job," he said. "Every day is different. I can be out and about the city all night long."

None of his former Monroe teammates would have imagined the quiet Eldridge as a police officer.

"It's kind of shocking," said Tim Costic, a former All-City first baseman at Monroe. "But I'm sure he's good at it."

Former Viking Coach Kevin Campbell joked, "He was a little temperamental with umpires. He's gone from questioning authority to being the authority."

Credit his wife, Lisa, a Sylmar High graduate whose grandfather and cousin were in law enforcement. She convinced Eldridge to take the LAPD test. He passed and graduated from the police academy in March of 1996.

"I'll do this for 25 years," he said.

As second baseman for the Rampart softball team, Eldridge helped win the LAPD championship. So what if he was a ringer. Chief Bernard Parks needs more officers like Eldridge.

"He worked hard at everything he did," Costic recalled. "I'd put my life in his hands."

To change professions so quickly and make a smooth transition from baseball to law enforcement can be attributed to Eldridge's athletic background.

Through baseball, he learned discipline and dedication, teamwork and organization. He was tested in pressure situations. He met and interacted with people of different backgrounds and personalities.

"You try to stay relaxed and calm under pressure because some of the situations we get involved in could be very dangerous," he said.

Ten years ago as a high school senior, Eldridge played on the most unlikely City championship baseball team. Monroe defeated San Fernando, 3-2, at Dodger Stadium in the 4-A final. The Vikings had a 13-16 record. They finished fourth in the Mid-Valley League and qualified for the playoffs by winning a special playoff game against Birmingham. Two of their five playoff victories went eight innings.

"That's probably one of my best memories--winning the City championship," Eldridge said. "We were underdogs by a lot. To win it showed me any team could win on a given day."

One of Eldridge's first jobs in the LAPD was patrolling Devonshire Division, near his boyhood home in North Hills. Driving a black-and-white patrol car in the same community he grew up in finally made him realize how far he had come.

"It was hitting home," he said. "I'm an adult."

Eldridge lives in Castaic, and his wife is expecting their first child, a boy, in October.

"I met a lot of great people," he said of playing baseball. "I wouldn't change anything. It will be neat to look back when my son is growing up."

Said his good friend Costic, one of the owners of the Agoura-based West Coast Baseball School: "I always envisioned the two of us playing ball [forever]."

Said Eldridge: "I don't miss playing baseball as much as I miss being around the guys. I feel pretty lucky and fortunate to get as far as I did. I had a great time."

*

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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