Janesville's Pat Campbell set to join former teammates in WSBL Hall
“I hear a lot of kids these days, even my son, (saying), ‘I’m a little burned out or I’m looking for a break (from baseball),’” the 42 year-old Campbell said. “I don’t identify with that because after high school was over (for the year), I wasn’t big into basketball or football. It was baseball.
“During those months, from May through early August, that’s what you did. You played baseball. I didn’t go to Summerfest until I was in my mid-30s. I didn’t have time for concerts.’’
Campbell’s dedication has brought him a touch of fame. He is one of five players to be inducted into the Wisconsin State Baseball League’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, Jan. 29, in Sheboygan. Campbell follows Janesville Aces teammates Tom Klawitter, Dan Davis and Jim Coulter, who are WSBL Hall charter members.
Campbell played 15 seasons with the Aces. He batted .320 in 380 games and ranks in the league’s career top 10 in 13 categories, including hits, doubles, runs scored and runs batted in. He led the league twice in fielding, including fielding 1,270 chances without an error in 1996, and he was named all-league seven times.
In 1997, Campbell had his best season, batting .438 with 39 RBIs, 14 doubles and five home runs in 35 games. Campbell was 29 and in his prime.
“We just had a really good lineup,” Campbell said. “I was hitting between Kevin Burns, who went on to play Triple A, and Jason Kundert, who played for UW-Oshkosh. I got to see a lot of good pitches.’’
Besides having the desire and skills during his Aces days, Campbell had an understanding wife, Cari. She knew what being a boy of summer is about. The Campbells have three children: Tyler, 15; Brianna, 13; and Jacob, 10.
Campbell, a 1986 Janesville Craig High graduate, was a two-year varsity catcher and a four-year starting catcher for UW-La Crosse.
Joining the Aces after his freshman season at La Crosse, Campbell said he discovered new maturity.
“I knew I was playing with some pretty savvy, experienced guys,” Campbell said. “I learned so much from Klawitter, Davis, Coulter and Tom Imhoff. They were older than I was, and they’d been around the block.’’
Klawitter, a former major league pitcher, said Campbell was a fierce competitor.
“It was always a thrill to play with Pat,” Klawitter said. “Pat was always so competitive. He made himself a good catcher, and after a couple years, we could close our eyes and know what we were thinking.’’
While learning to catch a former major leaguer, Campbell batted against future major league pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who pitched for the WSBL’s Sheboygan A’s. Washburn pitched two seasons for UW-Oshkosh.
“We took a lot of pride back in our Aces days when we faced Washburn. We beat him every time we faced him,” Campbell said. “But keep in mind, at that time, he was a young hard-throwing lefty, not real savvy, but he had a golden arm.’’
Campbell has made a successful transition from player to teacher and keeping perspective when it comes to his two boys.
“I really try to step away from my kids and let someone else on the team coach my sons because I’ve learned I’m not the best coach for them in a lot of cases,’’ Campbell said. “But to teach baseball to the other kids and team concepts and baseball principles, it’s been a lot of fun seeing the growth of these kids.”
The young players no doubt feel the warmth radiating from this perpetual boy of summer.
Last updated: 4:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012