With nothing left in the 2021 season, Noah Campbell decided to do everything.
Campbell, a Milwaukee prospect and second baseman by trade, played all nine positions on his team’s last day of the 2021 campaign and earned the save on the mound as Low-A Carolina wrapped up its season with a 5-2 win at Fayetteville.
“It just takes you back to playing Little League or Wiffle ball with your friends, you’re just enjoying it," said Campbell over the phone after the game. "It’s definitely something I’ll never forget to go out there and play all nine positions and then have all my teammates be just as happy as I am. That was really special.”
Campbell has been a multitool weapon throughout the year for the Mudcats. Prior to Sunday afternoon, he had played every infield position in addition to left field and pitcher. With one more day to go, he got them all under his belt.
“Earlier in the year I was kind of playing everywhere and my manager came up to me and he was like, ‘You know, we’re going to have you catch a bullpen before the end of the year because I want you to play all nine positions,'" said Campbell.
The regular infielder began his afternoon by playing likely his riskiest position in the lowest-leverage spot, getting a starting nod at catcher, and handled it well. Working with Carolina starting pitcher Brendan Murphy, Campbell only had to work through the minimum at the plate after Murphy erased a one-out walk to Miguel Palma with an inning-ending double play off the bat of Michael Sandle.
“I was really hesitant because I had never caught in my entire life, I’ve never put on gear ever. I was definitely really nervous to get back there and catch, but everything else I had played before, so I was open to it," said Campbell. “Once I caught a bullpen earlier this week and warmed with the pitcher today I was like, ‘It’s just baseball at the end of the day.’”
Then, it was around the horn and up the scoring sheet. Campbell worked at first base in the second inning, second in the third, third in the fourth and shortstop for the fifth. After moving from left to center to right from the sixth through the eighth innings, the former South Carolina Gamecock took the mound for the ninth with his team holding a three-run lead.
“It was a one-run game going into the top of the ninth and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to go into the game, I have to face a minimum of three batters, this is going to be tough only up a run," said Campbell. "Then we got some insurance runs in the top of the ninth and I was like, ‘OK, well that’s really helpful but it’s still only a three-run game,’ and obviously I haven’t been throwing bullpens or anything and I’m throwing 72 miles per hour.”
Sunday marked Campbell’s fourth time on the mound and despite any reservations about his velocity, ended as his third scoreless outing. The right-hander needed just nine pitches, seven for strikes, to dispatch with the Woodpeckers’ 7-8-9 hitters (Adonis Giron, Chad Stevens and Joey Loperfido) in order.
That set off a celebration with Mudcats teammates giving Campbell a Gatorade shower to mark his accomplishment and a moment he will remember for the rest of his career.
“Sometimes that gets lost, even in college and into pro ball because it is a job once you get to pro ball and you kind of lose the fun aspect, but at the end of the day it’s a game and you have to go out there and enjoy it," said Campbell. “If you enjoy it more, it’ll lead to more success. We’re all talented, but working hard and having fun are the separators.”
Campbell batted out of the leadoff spot for the Mudcats and went 0-for-4 with a walk to finish his season at .270/.388/.387 in exactly 100 games.