From playing in the Western Major Baseball League for the Fort McMurray Giants one year to being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays the next. That’s the story for 21-year-old Justin Bridgman who played for the Giants last year and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Major League Baseball draft on June 14, 2017.
“I’ve worked my whole life towards this goal of mine, to get drafted. It truly is one of the best days of my life, and I’m super excited to get the opportunity,” said Bridgman, who plays on the University of Nevada Wolf Pack. “Playing here at the University was the best thing that has ever happened to me, I’ve been able to really improve every year.”
During his time with the Giants in the summer of 2016, Bridgman led the team with a .324 batting average to go with 11 RBI and led the team in hits with 55 and stolen bases with 14. He also played the majority of his time at Shortstop and posted a very good .940 fielding percentage.
“Coming to Fort McMurray over the summer helped a ton,” said Bridgman. “The people were the number one thing that caught my attention. They were very caring and supportive of the team especially when they were going through a tough time. It was nothing but open arms.”
When he wasn’t playing summer ball, Bridgman suited up for the Wolf Pack who play in the NCAA Division 1 Mountain West Conference (MWC).
In 2014, he played his first season for the Wolf Pack and put up a .254 batting average in just 53 games. After starting just five games in 2015, Bridgman’s career took off.
In 2016, he started all but one game for the Wolf Pack (58 starts) and put up a .351 average, that included 14 doubles, one triple, and 37 RBI. Defensively, he had a fielding percentage of .971 and turned 38 double plays.
He followed that up by batting .313 during the 2017 season which was second on the team to go along with a .963 fielding percentage and 39 double plays turned.
“I attribute it to all of the hard work I put in,” said Bridgman. “My teammates and coaches pushed me to work that hard and I just focused on getting better every single day.”
Bridgman knows his path to make the Tampa Bay Rays roster may be a long-road, but he is ready for the challenge it brings.
“I just have to focus on each individual day. Every little detail helps out,” said Bridgman. “I can’t look at the end goal to often, because then it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening in the present. It’s just about improving as much as possible each day, one step at a time.”
Despite playing just one summer in Fort McMurray, Bridgman still remembers the first game played back at Shell Place after last year’s wildfire, and what it meant to him.
“The fans came out, and it really brought the community together. It’s something I am going to remember for a long time.” said Bridgman.
The Giants ended up winning that game against Regina, and Bridgman went 1-4.
The Tampa Bay Rays enter play on Wednesday night with a 35-32 record, third best in the American League East.
“I hope to be playing for the Rays as soon as possible.” said Bridgman.