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Freedom Report: A Profile of Michael Campbell
Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom
FLORENCE, KY - Pursuing a career in baseball is not for the faint of heart. The road is filled with enough obstacles to shake anybody's confidence. But sometimes a break goes your way when you least expect it.
For Freedom outfielder Michael Campbell, that break came in the form of a phone call.
"I was actually out looking for jobs when (the Freedom) called," laughs Campbell.
His story is a familiar one for Frontier League players. Campbell was drafted by the Padres in 2004 and played three seasons with the organization. But his opportunities were limited as he found himself losing at bats to players who were making more money.
"I was kind of the fourth outfielder which was hard for me because I've been an every day player all my life. I hung in there as long as I could, but it's a business and the organization had a lot of money invested in those guys."
With his playing time limited, Campbell left the Padres in search of a better opportunity. He signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League and enjoyed a successful season but was once again caught behind former major leaguers and affiliated players. In the past 3 years he has also played with the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies and Traverse City Beach Bums before signing with the Freedom last week.
For Campbell, the journey has been long and unpredictable, but his love for the game has never wavered. And he has seen himself transform from tentative rookie into a seasoned veteran, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that's had a calming influence on his new teammates.
"That's what veterans are for. Giving advice to the young guys, letting them know what they're doing right and wrong. And when things aren't going well, it's up to us to step up and lead the team through that."
The Freedom are 7-13 as they begin play tonight. However, they are 3-2 since Campbell joined the team and 3-1 since he was inserted into the leadoff spot in the batting order. His presence has stabilized the lineup and given manager Toby Rumfield a steady presence at the top of the order.
While he knows the team has a lot of ground to make up in the standings, he sees good reason for fans to expect the team's record to improve.
"I really believe we have a great lineup with some very good hitters. We've gotten off to a slow start, but we have over 80 games left. There's a lot of baseball still to be played. You have to keep fighting, take it one game at a time, and if we do that, I believe we can get hot and get back into the division race."