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Wednesday, February 21 Sports

Mets' Campbell leads training session at Bedford Middle School

The Baseball World Training School has been a fixture in Westport's summers over the past decade, a series of clinics that draws current and former professional players and coaches to assist in instruction to the next generation of local ballplayers.

On Wednesday, one of Connecticut's own stepped into that role. New York Mets utility man Eric Campbell, of Norwich, spent the morning interacting with kids and teaching them valuable lessons about the game at Bedford Middle School.

"Bringing in baseball players allows the kids to meet their heroes, and that's something they'll never forget," said Baseball World Training School director Vince Diaco. "When a player comes in and says this is how you hold a bat or you need to do it this way; that's something they will remember for the rest of their lives."

Campbell took questions from the youngsters, assisted in hitting lessons, took batting practice and signed autographs.

"It's fun, it's always good to see these guys out here in the summer especially in Connecticut," Campbell said. "There's still a lot of baseball here. ... There are a lot of good players coming out of New England right now. Hopefully a few of these guys make it."

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Campbell, 27, was taken in the eighth round of the 2008 draft after three years at Boston College. Campbell spent six seasons in the minor leagues before finally receiving a call up to the big leagues May 10.

"It's been my dream since day one, so for it to finally come true means everything," Campbell said.

Campbell has done the most with his opportunity, batting .337 with one home run and nine RBI in 108 at-bats over 39 games. During his short stay with the Mets, Campbell has played first, third and all three outfield positions. He also batted cleanup while filling in for a variety of injured players.

"The (kids) seemed to know all the answers about my stats; they knew more than I did," Campbell joked.

Campbell is one of a growing list of major league players from Connecticut that includes Campbell's current teammate Matt Harvey. Campbell played led NFA to the Class LL title in 2003 while Harvey and San Diego Padres pitcher Jesse Hahn led Fitch to the Class L championship in 2006.

"There's a lot of pride," said Campbell of the influx of players from his home state. "It seems like every team we play now has not only one player from another team, but a really good player (from Connecticut). There's a lot of good talent around."

Carter Kelsey, a die-hard Mets fan, played on the U11 Westport all-stars team this summer and appreciated the lessons delivered by the local talent.

"(The experience) was amazing," Kelsey said. "It's great because I see him on TV for the Mets and it's great to see him here with our camp. It's great because I'm from a state where major league players play and if I ever play in the major leagues, they'll be talking about me in Connecticut."

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The Baseball World Training School, which was established in 2002, runs weekly sessions during the summer for local baseball players aged 5-15. For more information about the program, visit www.baseballworldtrainingschool.com.

rlacey@bcnnew.com, @ryanlacey11