Campbell's living a dream

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

The rain is pounding down outside his hotel room, with nary a hint of the fabled Florida sunshine in the sky.

There will be no baseball for Jamie Campbell on this day. But he remains immersed in the game, poring through guides and record books.

"It never ends for me," said the self-confessed "research junkie."

That might also describe the depth of Campbell's biggest task this summer -- proving to Rogers Sportsnet viewers that he is indeed the right man to call 103 Blue Jays baseball games on the network, beginning with Monday's season opener in Tampa.

But he is already warming to that task, and there is no shortage of enthusiasm for it as opening day approaches.

"I can pretty much assure you I will be wildly excited (on Monday)," said Campbell, a former CJOH sports anchor who helped launch Sportsnet in 1998. "I don't think I'll be that nervous because I've already got one under my belt (as a last-minute fill-in two years ago).

"I've been following the game and the way it's been broadcast for so long. I'm pretty confident I won't screw anything up."

Sportsnet production boss Rick Briggs-Jude heartily agrees.

"Jamie has all the tools to be an excellent baseball broadcaster," he said. "There were a lot of people I thought about (to replace Rob Faulds on Jays play-by-play). But I really looked at what Jamie brought in terms of knowledge and love of the game and passion for the game."

'LOVED BASEBALL'

That passion was honed during Campbell's childhood years in Oakville, during which he spent many hours riding the train to Toronto to watch Jays games at old Exhibition Stadium. He guesses he'd see 30 games a year, many on his own. "I just loved baseball so much," he said.

Over the years, he came to appreciate the talents of Blue Jays radio legend Tom Cheek ("the voice of summer to me ... since 1977"), Dodgers veteran play caller Vin Scully ("a guy who doesn't need an analyst"), and former TSN Jays voice Dan Shulman, now of ESPN ("he calls a wonderful game").

Cheek and Scully, in particular, offer a testament to longevity and that familiarity baseball fans embrace. Campbell admits that's his biggest obstacle as a newcomer in the booth.

"People want a familiar voice, somebody they've been listening to for 25 years," he said. "Look at how beloved Harry Caray was, and this was a guy who butchered the English language. But it was that familiar voice that was soothing for everyone to listen to, if you were a Cubs fan.

"My job is to slowly but surely sell me to (Jays fans) and earn their trust."

Adding to the newness of it all: Sportsnet's rotation of four analysts. Pat Tabler, who'll also work 45 games on TSN this season, will be Campbell's partner until mid-May. Ex-Jays Tom Candiotti, Darren Fletcher and Rance Mulliniks also get their turns, but it won't just be a run of spot duty.

"We've built (the schedule) to allow Jamie to work with one person for a stretch of games," said Briggs-Jude.

ALL BASES COVERED

Said Campbell: "From an analytical standpoint, we've got all the bases covered. In a perfect world, do I wish it was one guy? I guess so. But the sad truth is, John Cerutti (who passed away last fall) was a reliable ex-major leaguer.

"It's tough to convince a guy who's retired to give up his summer with his family to call ball games."

No matter who he works with, count on Campbell to soak it all in.

Needless to say, the opportunity now in front of him qualifies as the proverbial dream come true.

Which leaves only one thing left to say: Play ball!


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