It's Not Just About Size For Cubs' Tony Campana
CHICAGO—Tony Campana is either stubborn or hard of hearing. The little center fielder has a skill set far bigger than his stature, and he used it to reach the majors less than three years after being drafted in the 13th round out of Cincinnati.
"When I was in high school, all the coaches I talked to said, 'You're a little too small to play college ball,'" he said. "Then once I transferred to Cincinnati, they were like, 'Well, he's probably a little too small to play pro ball.' Then finally I got drafted and they were like, 'Well, he's fast. Let's see if anything else happens.'"
Campana, 25, is listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, but seems smaller when he stands next to teammates on the field. He's overcome long odds his entire life—including a bout with leukemia as a child—so perhaps it shouldn't have been such a surprise that he started 2011 by hitting .342 in his first 30 games for Triple-A Iowa.
"He's a tough little cuss," Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said. "He throws his body around like it's a bean bag."
Campana jumped onto the organization's radar with a strong 2010 season for Double-A Tennessee. He batted .319/.378/.384 and stole 48 bases, yet he wasn't invited to big league camp. He did appear in four Cactus League games, and manager Mike Quade liked what he saw.
"Campy can run," Quade said. "He plays great defense. He'll slap it around and help us win a ballgame late. He can do things that we haven't had available."
The veteran outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome made it difficult for Quade to get Tyler Colvin at-bats. Campana wasn't likely to get a bigger opportunity after replacing Colvin, but Byrd's scary facial injury suffered in a May series in Boston figured to mean more playing time for younger players. Campana has shown a knack for seizing the moment, as he did with an RBI double off the bench in his big league debut on May 17 at Cincinnati.
Campana's learned to use his speed by hitting more balls on the ground, bunting and staying within his under-sized strike zone. He's a sure-handed fielder who has worked both on his arm strength and getting better jumps.
• Korean outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha, 20, earned a promotion to Tennessee by hitting .311/.344/.523 with 18 extra-base hits in 151 at-bats for high Class A Daytona.
• Righthander Robert Whitenack was off to a 7-0, 1.87 start between Daytona and Tennessee, after going 11-8, 4.15 at low Class A Peoria and Daytona last year.