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Connecticut Native, Eric Campbell, Thankful For Opportunity But Hopeful Of Sticking With Mets

Campbell’s steady glove and consistent bat have played a role in the team’s hot start.

Eric Campbell, 29, is congratulated by teammate Curtis Granderson. (Getty Images)

Eric Campbell, 29, is congratulated by teammate Curtis Granderson. (Getty Images)


Three weeks ago, 28-year old Eric Campbell received news that he wasn’t going to be on the New York Mets Opening Day roster because the team decided to go with eight relievers and just four bench players. So, the player they call “Soup” in the clubhouse, who had a solid spring and even did some catching down in Florida so he could serve as the emergency backstop, headed to Triple-A Las Vegas lost in a numbers game.

“I was disappointed, but I understood it,” said Campbell, who batted .550 (11-for-20) through six games for the 51s. “I knew pitching is going to win us a lot of games this year so for them to go with an 8-man rotation in the beginning is probably smart to get off to a fast start. I just looked at it as an opportunity to go down to Triple-A and get my swing going and I was able to do that.”

But just ten days into the season Campbell was recalled from Vegas to fill in at third for an injured David Wright, a job he performed admirably in Wright’s absence last season. After reaching base in his first ten games, he has slowed down a bit in recent days and the team called up top prospect Dilson Herrera on Thursday night, shifting Daniel Murphy to third and Campbell to the bench. However, the Norwich, Conn., native, is just happy that the club felt confident enough to give him another opportunity to play at the big league level after spending seven-plus years toiling in the minors.

“My only focus is going out and helping the team win,” said Campbell, who was in his seventh minor-league season when he was called up to the bigs last May for the first time in his career.  “Last year was kind of trying to prove that I belong and I think I did that.  This year we understand that were in a good spot and we have a good team so the only focus is winning.”

Born and raised in Norwich, Connecticut, Campbell’s baseball journey began in high school at the Norwich Free Academy, where his father was an assistant coach for 26 years. Eric was a third baseman on the school’s 2003 state championship team and he set the school record for hits, home runs, batting average, stolen bases, runs, walks, and at-bats, and even played three seasons of varsity basketball.

He was then offered a scholarship to play baseball for Boston College, where he hit .306 with 114 RBIs in three seasons for the Golden Eagles. The Mets selected him in the eighth round of the 2008 draft, giving him a chance to pursue his baseball career not far from home.

“There’s a slim chance that you get to play close to home. There’s 30 teams and only the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets are close,” Campbell told me in the Mets locker room. “So I’m fortunate that now a lot of my family and everyone back home gets to see me not only around here, but on the TV networks too.”

Before Campbell was drafted, Mik Aoki, his manager at Boston College and currently the manager at Notre Dame, told scouts to give him a chance as third baseman, his natural position, until he proved he could not play there. But with David Wright at third, the Mets were set and Campbell decided that a utility role would be his best chance to make the majors.

“I realized that pretty much right when I was drafted,” said Campbell, who showed his versatility last season, playing six positions — all four infield spots and the two corner outfield positions. “I played third base in college and getting drafted to the Mets you got obviously David Wright and we had Ike Davis my same draft year. I just realized that if I was going to get a shot I would start having to move around a little bit more.  So it’s something I started in Brooklyn and continued ever since.”

Campbell debuted with the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones in 2008, but he did not reach Double-A until his third professional season and then spent three years there. Last year, Campbell earned a spot with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s and he tore up the league in 2013 and a chunk of 2014, hitting a combined .326/. 437/. 490. After 661 games in the minor leagues, Campbell finally earned a call-up to the big show last May and he hit .263 in 85 games for the Metropolitans.

“It’s not easy. It’s not an easy lifestyle,” said Campbell, who shoveled driveways, entered data into computer logs and was a substitute teacher at his old high school during recent winters to earn some extra cash. “Everyone knows about the bus rides and time being away from home and all that it’s tough. When you’re not a high round pick you got to earn everything you get. I feel like I did that and I’m thankful the organization stuck with me for all those years and now it’s all paying off.”

As Wright continues rehabbing his strained right hamstring, the Mets haven’t missed a beat at third base and for that they can thank Campbell, whose steady glove and consistent bat have played a role in the team’s hot start. It’s a safe bet that when Wright returns, Campbell will remain on the roster to provide the Mets with a trusted right-handed bat off the bench. But in the meantime, he knows that he can only do so much in replacing a guy of Wright’s caliber.

“I don’t look at it as trying to do what David did,” said Campbell. “Like I said my only focus is on winning games and if I could do something to help the team everyday then I’m doing my job.”

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