New Britain - The journey as a minor league baseball player can be fraught with speed bumps and roadblocks.
Now in his fifth season in the New York Mets system, Eric Campbell, 25, of Norwich had endured his share of bumpy stretches.
But he remains driven to complete the journey until reaching his desired destination - the major leagues.
"I didn't put a time limit on it or anything," said Campbell who's having a productive season at the Class AA level playing for the Binghamton Mets. "I know someday I can play in the major leagues and have success. I've got to keep working hard."
Entering Monday's game at New Britain, Campbell ranked third in Eastern League in batting average (.316) and also had six home runs and 38 RBI while playing in 80 games. He recently took advantage of his first all-star invitation, knocking in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth and earning most valuable player honors.
"He's got a lot of ability," Binghamton hitting coach Luis Natera said. "This year he came in way better shape and his work ethic is better. He's the first one in the (batting) cages. And his plate discipline has been outstanding.
"He clicked. Sometimes one year makes a big difference."
Last year Campbell, who helped lead Norwich Free Academy to the Class LL state championship in 2003, reached a low point, as his batting average dipped to .247 in his first full season at Binghamton. The former Boston College standout rallied from a sluggish start to bat .323 over the final 54 games.
Still, it was mental and physical grind for Campbell, who was frustrated over the fact that he failed to build on a successful 2010 season during which he batted .306 with career bests in home runs (10) and RBI (51) at the Class A and Class AA levels despite missing time with a broken bone in his hand.
"The first half (of the season), I was discouraged," Campbell said. "I just wasn't playing well. In every minor leaguer's career, it's something someone goes through at some point. It probably wasn't the best timing for me because I probably had a good chance to continue on my 2010 season. It made me better this year, a better player and better person."
Campbell has become as consistent and reliable as the sun rise this season.
His versatility is one of his strengths. A third baseman at BC, he's also played first base and outfield in the minors. His best position is first base, according to Natera, calling Campbell a "plus defender" there.
Campbell has the potential to fill the role of utility player on the major league level.
"He can be on a 25-man roster, be a right-handed bat off the bench and put him at third base, first base or left field and he's not going to hurt you," Natera said. "He can play the game. It's not like he has to learn. If he makes it to the big leagues tomorrow, he knows what to do."
In the B-Mets lineup, Campbell regularly bats fourth, including Monday when he started in left field. His fan club expected to be in attendance included his girlfriend and her family, his brother Kyle and parents Hugh and Amy.
Campbell, the Mets' eighth-round draft pick in 2008, draws inspiration from fellow former Eastern Connecticut standouts. Ex-NFA teammate Andrew Carignan pitched for the Oakland A's this season before suffering a season-ending injury. And the Mets' highly-regarded pitching prospect Matt Harvey, a Fitch graduate, is scheduled to make his first career major league start Thursday in Arizona.
"I'm excited for him," Campbell said of Harvey. "He deserves it. He has such a professional attitude and it really shows. I think he's going to do great. You feel a sense of pride when you see someone from Eastern Connecticut go up there.
"… Minor leagues are tough because sometimes you feel so far away from the major leagues, but you're really not. Sometimes all it takes is a good month and you can be right there. … Someday, when I get a chance, it will be definitely worth it."