In the ninth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Matt Campbell out of Clemson University. Serving as the team’s closer, Campbell posted a 0.84 ERA in 25 games with eight saves. Our Jared Massey interviewed Campbell to discuss his life as a college player and transitioning to the pros.
Jared Massey: Thanks for taking the time. First, tell Dodger fans about yourself. Where you grew up, how you got into baseball.
Matt Campbell: I grew up in Alpharetta, GA and I got into baseball when my dad started coaching Tee Ball. I decided to start playing and haven’t looked back since.
JM: Do you have a favorite player, or someone who you model your game after?
MC: I would say Craig Kimbrel since he is undersized like me and he also is a closer in the majors, something I have always dreamed of being.
JM: If you could, give us a scouting report on yourself.
MC: I love throwing my fastball. No matter what the count, situation, etc. I love going to my fastball. I have a slider and a change up and I would say my change up is my favorite off speed pitch of the two.
JM: What type of pitcher are you? Power pitcher? Command?
MC: I would say that I’m not much of a command guy. I like to try and overpower hitters and don’t really like the pitching to contact mentality.
JM: Now let’s talk a little about your college days. Describe your experience playing at Clemson and how your game developed.
MC: My experience at Clemson was incredible. It was the best 4 years of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything. The friends I made, the coaches I had, the playing experiences and the memories are second to none. My development at Clemson was night and day. When I got there, I was a scrawny little 150 pound freshman who had no idea how to pitch. I got in the weight room with our strength coach and got my weight up to 205 by the time I left. My pitching coach, coach Pep (Dan Pepicelli), tinkered with my mechanics for 3 years until things finally clicked my senior year.
JM: Who is the toughest hitter you’ve faced?
MC: The toughest hitter I have ever faced is probably Derek Fisher from Virginia.
JM: You made drastic improvement from your junior to senior seasons. To what do you attribute that progress?
MC: I would attribute the success I had from junior to senior year to my strength coach Dennis Love for getting me stronger to increase my velocity and my pitching coach, Dan Pepicelli, for guiding me on how to fine tune my mechanics and be repeatable with the new found velocity. I would also say my dad had a lot to do with it. I started living my life by the phrase he told me before I left for my senior year. “If something is worth fighting for, never look back and ask yourself what if?” That phrase carried me through the season when I needed that little extra motivation.
JM: As the team’s closer, you came into games with a lot of pressure on your shoulders. How do you respond to those situations: do you try to ignore it or use it to your advantage?
MC: I live for moments like that. I would rather come into a game with the bases loaded and no outs than start my own inning. I thrive off of the adrenaline and the pressure. I harness it in order to allow myself to get ramped up without losing control and focusing more.
JM: Over your four years in college, is there any single moment that stands out as special?
MC: Opening day, one of my best friends hadn’t had many at bats in his 4 year career, and he had a 2 out pinch hit home run in the 9th inning to send the game to extras. Also, on Senior Day, we scored 5 runs with 2 outs to come back and tie the game in the 9th inning and took the game to 13 innings and eventually walked off with a win. The seniors led the charge the whole way and I had a career high pitch count and inning total that game.
JM: What would you say is your greatest strength as a player? What’s something you’re working on?
MC: My greatest strength is I’m always competing to get better. I’m never satisfied with where I am and I am always looking for somewhere to improve my game. I never quit. Something I am working on is when I have a bad outing, not only seeing the negative side of things, but finding positives in there that I can build off of.
JM: Lastly, what goals have you set for yourself, in the near future and moving forward?
MC: In the near future, I hope to get my career in the minors off to a good start in Great Lakes and continue where I left off this past collegiate season. I want to keep pitching with success and, in the long run, I hope that success will carry me through the minor league system and one day onto the mound, under the lights, in Dodger Stadium.
JM: Thank you for your time and good luck.
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