JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – In 2015, Brendan Campbell warmed up for all 46 games for Carson-Newman baseball. He was on the bus for every road trip and shared a hotel room with three other people just like his teammates. He wore No. 22 for each contest. Yet he never stepped foot on the diamond nor did he come close.
The Yardley, Pa. native spent his first year in college as a redshirt. Usually for players with that distinction it requires running the concession stand for home games or standing behind a camera for the video stream and it never involves going on the road.
Campbell was close to seeing action on the field, but there was an experienced group in the outfield that made it nearly impossible for him to see the field. Between Bo Ausmus, Cody Fox and Joe Tipton, the trio were consistently on the lineup card during their career. Ryan Addington (Cincinnati, Ohio) was coming off of a successful freshman campaign and played a large role for coach Tom Griffin.
Not stepping between the lines at all was admittedly tough for Campbell, but it was a chance for him to adapt to a different level with the tutelage of experienced upperclassmen.
"It was definitely difficult for me being a competitor," Campbell said. "I always wanted to play especially if I had a chance to prove myself to be in. Then again, we were a very senior-oriented team last year. Sitting back on it now, I learned so much from the seniors. We had three outfielders that were all seniors and I just learned so much from all of them. It really helped me this year without even playing a game before the season and in the fall it helped me out. Being a leader and doing things the right way, the way they used to do it and the way coach Griff preached to them to do it for four years. It really sped up the process for me as an outfielder especially making the transition from the infield to the outfield coming in here my freshman year."
Coming out of Pennsbury High, the redshirt-freshman was a first-team all-league free safety and his father played football at Rutgers. Campbell entertained scholarship offers from Shippensburg and Kutztown but made the call to come to Carson-Newman.
Primarily an infielder as a high school player, the Eagles saw him with a future in the outfield and used his redshirt season to improve his skills.
"I had the speed to cover ground," Campbell said. "It was really just developing my arm. Luckily for me I was able to travel with the team last year and long toss every day and that really built up a lot of my arm strength. When I came back in the fall this year, I had double the strength."
Despite not seeing a pitch in a game in almost two years Campbell wasted no time to make an impact in the first game of his collegiate career. In the 2016 season opener, the outfielder went 2-for-4 with two runs scored at Limestone on Feb. 2, 2016.
Sitting in the dugout for those 46 games in 2015 aided the Yardley, Pa. native by analyzing the pitchers in the league and the approaches of the senior class.
"I'm still a freshman at the plate," Campbell said. "I'm still getting used to everything. Last year helped a lot seeing pitchers tendencies. In this league, they throw a lot off-speed low and away. I'm trying to adapt to that right now. Watching the other guys, seeing how their approaches worked. When success happened, trying to model that and do what they are doing and try to transfer it to my game."
In the final game of a three-game series against Mars Hill on March 12, Campbell gave a glimpse into what his future may hold. In his first at-bat, he drove a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his first career home run. A couple innings later with a man on base in the fifth, Campbell cranked his second round-tripper of the game.
The rookie has started 19 of the 27 games in 2016 for Carson-Newman while tallying a .213 batting average. This season's version of the Eagles is deeper than the one from a season ago but he is embracing the competition.
"The difference between last year and this year is our depth at all positions," Campbell said. "Last year we lost eight or nine one-run games and that was the difference between last and first place. This year it has been a lot better with guys competing and going against each other forcing guys to be better and be clutch. Last year if they weren't clutch they knew they were going to start the next day because they were all seniors."
Campbell has a lot of at-bats in his future and a bevy of untapped talent waiting to surface. A season on the bench has helped the freshman understand the game as he focuses on one sport for the first time in his life. When the 2019 season begins, the senior will look into the dugout and find a player that he will mentor in their first season at Mossy Creek.
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