Cubs’ prospect Tony Campana is bound and determined to beat the odds. Campana has been a fighter since childhood when he was diagnosed with cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) at age 7. Campana went through an excruciating six months of chemotherapy in which he battled being sick on a daily basis, constant tests and doctor visits and losing his hair.
After 10 years of being in remission and frequent check-ups, Campana was pronounced cured. At the ripe old age of 18, Campana had already dealt with more adversity than many do over the course of a lifetime. Tony Campana began his college career as a walk-on at UNC Asheville. Despite the fact Campana hit .418 as a senior in high school, his coaches doubted at the time if he could play ball at the collegiate level due to his size. Campana began last season listed at 5’8″ and 160 pounds and was just a little lighter (150 pounds) when he began playing ball in college.
Campana proved the doubters wrong by not only making the team but he also earned a starting spot in their outfield. In two seasons at UNC Asheville, he hit .319 and stole 22 bases in 72 games.
After his sophomore year, Campana transferred to the University of Cincinnati where he stole 104 bases while being caught 25 times in 129 attempts. Campana hit .334/.410/.405 in his two seasons as a Bearcat.
The Cubs selected Campana in the 13th round of the 2008 draft. In his three seasons down on the farm, Campana has put together a .299/.346/.353/.699 line with 31 doubles and eight triples. While he has yet to hit a home run over the wall in the regular season (one-career home run, an inside the park homer in the post-season last fall), Campana has been successful swiping bases … 136 steals in 177 attempts.
Campana showed progress at the plate last season. Hitting out of the leadoff spot for the Smokies, Campana put together a .314/.378/.384/.762 line and was successful in 48 of 68 stolen base attempts.
In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, Campana credited his parents for his success. “Growing up, they taught me to be strong and always battle.” And I wouldn’t question his work ethic either. “Nothing is ever going to come easy for me, so I have to work my way (to the top).” Last year Campana received the Southern League’s Best Hustler Award and made the league’s Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star teams.
Campana’s strength is “small ball” and doing all of the “little things” the right way. Campana utilizes his speed, bunts for base hits and tallies a lot of singles (277 in 282 minor league games). Campana has shown no power to this point, and he doesn’t project to do so.
In order for Tony Campana to make it to the big leagues, he will need to make better decisions on the bases and cut down on his caught stealing percentage. Campana is a solid defender and has spent time in center and in left. Campana is working with Tim Buss, the Cubs’ strength and conditioning coach, at Camp Colvin in Mesa in hopes of adding a little pop. If Campana were to work his way to the Show, he figures to be a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Tony Campana hasn’t made any of the Cubs top prospect lists, and probably never will, but I can’t help rooting for the undersized underdog who is all about hustle and hard work.
Best Hustler Award – Tony Campana
Good luck Tony Campana … I’ll be rooting for you.