Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Another month, another Big Ten Conference commit.
Janesville Craig High catcher Jacob Campbell, who is entering his junior year, announced via Twitter on Tuesday his verbal commitment to play baseball for the University of Illinois.
Campbell joins Cougars teammate Jack Blomgren—who will be a senior shortstop and pitcher—in the Big Ten after Blomgren committed to Michigan last month.
“The Big Ten culture, only being three hours away and getting a Big Ten education for the offer they gave me, it was just an offer I couldn’t turn down,” Campbell said in a phone interview. “I’m really happy.”
Campbell said he traveled to Champaign twice to visit the Illinois campus and received his offer a couple weeks ago. He continued playing in traveling tournaments for Hitters Baseball—based in Kenosha—before finalizing his decision this week.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound backstop hit cleanup throughout his sophomore year as Craig made a second straight run to the WIAA state tournament. He hit .303 in 29 games with 19 RBI and 13 runs scored. He had four doubles and a triple.
Campbell was also a weapon behind the plate, cutting down all but 12 base-stealers throughout the year.
He said college commitments are coming earlier and earlier for high school baseball players, so making his decision before his junior season felt right. Players do not sign a letter of intent until their senior year.
“I don’t know the date, but I’ve got some time,” Campbell said with a laugh. “But this is a dream come true to play in the Big Ten. Obviously the Badgers don’t have a baseball team, but you see the culture of the Big Ten, how great the schools are and the education you get. It worked out really well.”
While college is still a couple years away, Campbell said this decision won’t change his work ethic.
“It’s behind me, but it’s only going to push me to work harder,” he said. “Now it’s working to be the best baseball player I can be when I arrive as a freshman at Illinois. I’m just going to work my tail off and hope everything goes well.”
Campbell credited his father, Pat, trainer Brad Fitzke of Janesville’s Athlete X Factory and Hitters coach R.J. Fergus with helping him during his young career. Pat Campbell is also a Craig assistant coach.
“My relationship with my dad is huge,” Jacob Campbell said. “Six years ago I was playing 9- and 10-year-old baseball and he was my coach. He’s worked with me and coached me all along the way. I couldn’t ask for a better father to help me during the process.”
For now, Campbell and Blomgren will look forward to another year as high school teammates.
If all goes well over the next few years, they’ll be eager to battle on a Big Ten diamond.