By STEVE KRAH
Drew Campbell took a negative and turned it into a positive.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine of 2020 took away the ability to play baseball.
The Jeffersonville (Ind.) High School graduate and former Olney (Ill.) Central and University of Louisville outfielder was heading into his second season in the Atlanta Braves organization when things came to a standstill. Major League Baseball eventually started up. Minor League Baseball did not.
“It was the longest time without baseball since I was born,” says Campbell, who turns 24 on Oct. 10. “It was definitely hard on me. But I did not lose my passion for the game.”
Eventually, Campbell was able to give lessons at Ellis Baseball Academy in Jeffersonville and that put things into perspective.
“Young kids just wanted to play baseball,” says Campbell. “They’re not worried about contracts or who they’re going to play for.
“So (the time away) was a good re-set for everybody. It’s definitely a kids’ game and sometimes we get away from that.”
Another benefit from teaching hitting is that it helped him with his own offensive game by figuring out a way to explain the concepts.
“It’s easy to stay sharp when I’m teaching someone to hit,” says Campbell. “The mental side means a lot more now that I’m older.”
To Campbell, that means taking care of himself — mentally and physically. He’s doing more reading and journaling and getting a handle on his nutrition and workout routine.
“I’m staying positive,” says Campbell, who doesn’t want to take negative thoughts onto the field.
At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he has put 10 to 15 pounds on his frame in the last year and plans to add about 15 more in the off-season whether working out in Jeffersonville or Louisville. He eats six meals a day, lifts weights thee times a week and gets in hitting when he can.
“My nutrition is where I’ve really got to step up my game,” says Campbell. “I’m on the path to being the guy (the Braves) want me to be.
“That’s someone who hits for more power with more doubles and triples.”
While he missed two months while dealing with a pulled hamstring, Campbell played at three levels in 2021 — rookie-level (Florida Complex League Braves), Low Class-A (Augusta, Ga., GreenJackets) and High Class-A (Rome, Ga., Braves) — and hit .308 (32-of-104) with five home runs, three triples, seven doubles, 20 runs batted in and 32 runs scored in 27 games.
“I finished strong for the year,” says Campbell, who concluded the year with Rome. “I put myself in a good position for next year.”
Campbell, a lefty batter and thrower, played mostly in right field.
“That’s where I feel the most comfortable,” says Campbell. “But I’m an outfielder.
“I can go get the ball no matter where I’m at.”
Selected in the 23rd round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves, Campbell hit .224 (24-of-107) with one homer, one triple, four doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs in 28 games that summer for Rome — then a Low Class-A club.
After that first pro season, he completed his course work at Louisville as a Sport Administration major and Criminal Justice minor.
Campbell logged three collegiate seasons — one at National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Olney Central (2017) and two at NCAA Division I Louisville (2018 and 2019).
He batted .294 (53-of-180) with seven homers, three triples, six doubles, 31 RBIs and 35 runs in 50 games at Olney Central for Blue Knights head coach Dennis Conley.
“It was an awesome experience,” says Campbell. “(Conley) is an all-time great coach. That’s Dennis Conley’s town. Everybody knows Dennis Conley. He parks where he wants.
“He really pushed me. Helped me through everything. He definitely cares about his players.”
At U of L, playing for Cardinals head coach Dan McDonnell, Campbell hit .310 (108-of-348) with four homers, three triples, 23 doubles, 70 RBIs and 52 runs in 121 games (97 as a starter).
“To have the chance to play for (McDonnell) was awesome,” says Campbell. “I’m excited to see what he does with the Cardinals (in 2022).”
Louisville went 51-18 and played in 2019 College World Series. Campbell became the first U of L player to be named to the all-CWS team, hitting .462 (6-for-13) with three RBIs. Batting seventh and playing right field, he went 3-for-4 including a walk-off base hit in an elimination game against Mississippi State.
At Jim Patterson Stadium, there is a locker room dedicated to professionals that have played at Louisville. There Campbell is likely to run into people like Jeffersonville’s Drew Ellis (Arizona Diamondbacks), New Albany’s Josh Rogers (Washington Nationals), 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Henry Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates system) and San Francisco Giants minor leaguers Tyler Fitzgerald and Logan Wyatt.
Born in Jeffersonville, Campbell played T-ball at the YMCA in Clarksville and attended grade school and middle school there. He was at Jeff/GRC Little League, where he first played for Derek Ellis (who was later his head coach at Jeffersonville High and runs Ellis Baseball Academy) and then with the Louisville Longhorns and Ironmen travel teams as well as the Ricky Romans-managed Floyds Knobs American Legion Post 42 team.
Drew is the second of Tony and Keri Campbell’s four children. Nick Campbell was a senior at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville when Drew was a freshman.
“It was only time I got to play with my older brother,” says Drew of Nick, who is now 27. Kyle Campbell (16) is a sophomore and Andrea Campbell (15) a freshman — both at Jeffersonville.
Drew played his last three prep seasons at Jeffersonville and graduated in 2016. With the Red Devils, he was reunited with Derek Ellis.
“He teaches baseball the right way,” says Campbell, who counts Derek’s son, Drew Ellis, as one of his buddies.
Campbell was an all-state selection at Jeffersonville. In 2016, he slugged eight home runs, drove in 27 and scored 30 in 25 games and was named Southern Indiana Player of the Year in by the Louisville Courier-Journal.