New Zealand is far from a baseball hotbed, but Scott Campbell is trying to change that. The New Zealand native was a 10th-round pick out of Gonzaga and was named to the New York-Penn League all-star squad after posting a line of .279/.383/.341 with an impressive 23-22 strikeout-walk ratio in 179 at-bats. Campbell was known for his control of the strike zone at Gonzaga and also showed it in the all-star game, when he walked twice in two plate appearances. We sat down with Campbell before the all-star game to discuss softball, skipping school to watch baseball and sheep.
Baseball America: Are there any other New Zealanders to play pro ball?
Scott Campbell: There was Travis Wilson with the Braves a few years ago, and I think there was another guy but I honestly can’™t remember what his name was. They are all ex-softball guys. Softball is not a huge sport (in New Zealand), but it’™s bigger.
BA: Is softball how you got started?
SC: No, I never played softball. I got into baseball when I was about 10 when I saw an ad in the newspaper and figured I would give it a try. After going to the Word Children’™s Baseball Fair that year I saw what baseball was really like, and I fell in love with the game and I knew that is what I wanted to do. It was tough playing baseball in New Zealand because it is so small there, only about 600 people play.
BA: Were you able to watch baseball when you were a kid?
SC: My dad actually went to college in the U.S. as well and his mother is Canadian so we have a little background from here, and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, which would happen on Monday at lunchtime, but I’™d miss school every once in a while to watch baseball.
BA: How did you end up at Gonzaga?
SC: I played my freshman year at Central Arizona (Community) College and had a really good first year and was an all-American there. So Gonzaga needed a second baseman and no one else was really interested in me. So I took a chance and went, and it is a really great school and a great program. The weather is a little tough up there, but I was rather happy to get the work I need to get done and develop as a baseball player.
BA: Did you get teased for playing baseball growing up?
SC: Not so much teased. But when I was in high school which we call college, and I was playing for the national team and people were like, ‘baseball, what’s that?’ It was great though because when the draft occurred, I was in New Zealand for the first time in three years, and I had a lot of media and I went back to my high school and talked to the whole school, two and a half thousand kids. It was just a great experience to go back there, you know all the teachers that might have looked at me a little funny in the past were all congratulating me.
BA: What is the biggest misconception your teammates have about New Zealand?
SC: I get a lot of Australian jokes because Australians are known a little more for baseball and their close proximity to New Zealand. My teammates have been pretty good and they are impressed I am from New Zealand, they think it is kind of cool. In baseball, at the end of the day it is what you do on the field and not who you are that makes you a player.
BA: I once heard that New Zealand has more sheep than people, is this true or false?
SC: True. The last time I heard, it was a few years ago, but I believe the ratio is like 13-to-1, sheep to people. It is something ridiculous like 54 million sheep or something like that. I don’™t know how accurate those statistics are, but my manager gives me a little bit of (a hard time) for that one. But it’™s all in good fun and if you can’™t make fun of yourself, then you shouldn’™t be making fun of anyone.