When one door closed on Jared Campbell -- the shocking news that the baseball program at Florida College would fold after his sophomore season -- another opened. Campbell's parents had moved south from Washington, D.C., to Beaufort, and they heard about a new baseball program sprouting up in the area.
A year later, the 6-foot-6 left-hander has burst through that open door, establishing himself as one of USC Beaufort's top pitchers and helping the Sand Sharks to a solid start in their inaugural season.
Before this weekend's trip to Lake Wales, Fla., for a Sun Conference series against Warner University, Campbell took a few minutes to talk to the Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet about his path to USCB and the mark he hopes to leave on the fledgling program.
Question: Coach Rick Sofield has kind of dubbed you as the ace of the staff. Do you feel comfortable with that distinction?
Answer: I think we have a numerous amount of guys who could have that role. I'm happy to be in that position, and I'm going to do everything I can every time I get on the mound to help my team win.
Q. With that role, you're usually the starting pitcher on Friday of a conference series, and there's a little more pressure there because that first game of the three-game series is so important. Do you kind of thrive on that pressure?
A. Absolutely. I think every pitcher, if you asked them that question, would say the same thing. Getting thrown out there into a situation that counts for something big in the end, you want to give everything you can every single time.
Q. You and Brock Wooten both came from Florida College, where last season was the last year for that program, and you came into this situation where the program is in its first year. How is the team dynamic different between those two situations?
A. I think it's just a blessing to be here, and Brock would say the same thing. I'm very excited to be here, be part of something new, be part of something that will be in the books forever. It's a first-year program, and we all get to be part of something big and put our mark or our stamp on the program.
Q. What was it that made you want to come to USCB?
A. Definitely looking up and meeting Rick Sofield. The first time I ever met him, I was drawn to want to play for him. I saw his background and thought it would be a great opportunity. And my family moved here (to Beaufort) a year ago, so I thought it would be nice to be closer to my little brother and my mom and dad and spend my junior and senior years here.
Q. You mentioned your younger brother. Does he go to high school here?
A. No, he's actually a younger, younger brother. He's 8 years old. He goes to Beaufort Academy, and he's at every single game. He loves it.
Q. Is he a ball player?
A. He's working on it. We're working on it with him. He's definitely into the books right now, definitely a scholarly kid, but he loves baseball. He's been around it since he could walk.
Q. A lot of players have mentioned that they came here to play for coach Sofield. What is it about him that really seems to capture these young guys and make them want to come play for him?
A. In my mind, he's as honest as it gets. He tells you how it is and he's always supportive in everything, never negative.
Q. You guys haven't given him too many reasons to be negative, because you're off to a pretty good start. Are you at all surprised by the success you've had early on with such a young team that hadn't played together before?
A. Not at all, really. I think we had all been working really hard, and we all wanted the same thing. It doesn't really matter how young you are, in my mind. We wanted it real bad, and we want to prove people wrong. We work together as a team, a great bunch of guys, and we enjoy ourselves playing baseball here.
Q. Have you noticed a difference in the dugout or in the attitudes of the guys since you started winning some games and realizing you were going to have some success this year? Have you seen the confidence build in the younger players?
A. Absolutely. You see it grow every single time -- every time there's a hit, every time there's a run, everybody gets excited and everything. But the biggest part is doing that even when you're not getting the runs and the hits. At times, it's easy to lose focus of that, but I think we've done a great job of getting excited about that and knowing we have good enough players to win.
Q. You mentioned having the chance to leave a stamp on this program. When you look five or 10 years down the road and look back on the stamp you left, what do you hope it will be?
A. I hope it will be constantly growing, and I also hope it will be a program that people recognize throughout the nation as a great baseball program, a great school to go to. In my mind, with the way it's growing, I think it has a great possibility to be that.