NEW YORK — Big dreams can come from small places. And as Eric Campbell sat at his locker in the visiting team clubhouse Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, he shook his head in amazement at how big those dreams grew off Scotland Road in Norwich.
"It's unbelievable," Campbell said before the Mets trashed the Yankees again 12-7 in the Subway Series. "We talk about it all the time. The three of us, we lived a mile radius from each other. You could hit all three of us in one minute."
Campbell, 27, said he has been best friends essentially his entire life with Andrew Carignan, 27, who got to the majors first with the Oakland A's in 2011. Campbell worked out this past offseason with Dominic Leone, 22, who has found a home in the Seattle Mariners' bullpen, and those two have become good friends.
"It's special to get Norwich on the map," Campbell said.
After more than six years in the minors, Campbell's call to the bigs finally came late Friday night in Salt Lake City. Wally Backman, manager of the Mets' Triple A affiliate at Las Vegas, told Campbell's roommate to summon Campbell to the restaurant of the team's hotel.
"The walk down there was really exciting," Campbell said. "I had the feeling that I knew the reason why."
Ecstatic, Campbell called home in Connecticut. His mom, Amy, answered. She turned the phone over to her husband, Hugh.
"It was just before 2 a.m. here when I called my parents," Campbell said. "I think they were all right with waking up for that phone call."
Campbell took a flight to New York Saturday. He was scheduled to start at first base. Lucas Duda, hospitalized briefly with food poisoning believed to have been caused by an undercooked hamburger, recovered quicker than anticipated. Campbell did pinch hit for Duda in the sixth inning after Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg brought in lefty Jacob Diekman in relief. Campbell drove in Daniel Murphy with a sacrifice fly.
"The first at-bat was exciting," Campbell said. "It was a big spot. That's probably the most memorable moment so far for me.
"I don't even know how to describe what has happened to be honest. It has been crazy. The excitement of not only getting called up, but getting to play a little bit, getting some hits. It has definitely been three or four days I'll remember forever."
It did get a little crazy during Campbell's second time up in the eighth Saturday. With runners on second and third and one out, the Phillies were in the process of intentionally walking Campbell. After ball one, however, a couple of Phillies noticed Bobby Abreu getting ready to pinch hit for Travis d'Arnaud, who was in the hole. There was an infielders meeting. They decided to pitch to Campbell and Mike Adams struck him out looking.
"Definitely weird," Campbell said, "but I knew as soon as they went to the mound they were going to start pitching to me."
In his first start Sunday, Campbell went 1-for-3, including his first major league hit against Cole Hamels in the fourth.
"I'll remember it forever," Campbell told reporters after the Mets broke a five-game losing streak, saying he'd give the ball to his parents. "I can relax a little bit. I've heard stories of guys going 20 or so at-bats, so I'm glad to get it out of the way in three."
Campbell, who played on NFA's state title team with Carignan in 2003 and graduated in 2005 before going to Boston College, was neither a Red Sox nor Yankee fan when he was young. He said he was more a fan of individuals. Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. sprang to mind. He had been to the old Yankee Stadium as a fan, but Monday was the first time he'd been in the new place.
"To be a part of this is a dream come true," Campbell said. "New York vs. New York, it doesn't get better than this."
With the Mets down a run in the eighth Monday, he hustled for a pinch hit double after his sharp grounder bounced off third baseman Yangervis Solarte. Campbell, 2 for 6 with the Mets, scored on Duda's bloop single, beating Jacoby Ellsbury's throw to the plate with a nifty slide.
"I knew the play at second would be kind of close, but you need a guy in scoring position right there," Campbell said. "Then Duda broke his bat so I figured it would drop in front of [Ellsbury]. I got a decent jump. I got in there by a split second."
Chris Young followed with a two-run homer and after Tuesday night — Campbell did not play — the Mets suddenly are at .500. Until the Subway Series, the Mets hadn't hit a lick. Until winning their third in a row and beating the Yankees for the sixth straight time, things were getting a little ugly. Moves were in the offing and that's one reason the Mets sent down Josh Satin to make room for Campbell, hitting .355 with three homers, 24 RBI and a .442 on-base percentage with Vegas.
Campbell was drafted as a third baseman in the eighth round in 2008. David Wright, of course, is an All Star at third base. Campbell wisely diversified. He has played first. He has played the outfield. He has played every position except pitcher and catcher. Manager Terry Collins said he likes Campbell's flexibility.
"Recently I started playing some short and second," said Campbell, 6-3, 205. "If somebody goes down or we need a double switch in the National League, [versatility] definitely is going to help my future."
After a lousy start in 2011 at Binghamton, Campbell has admitted if he hadn't turned it around in the second half he thought he could be released. He finished the year at .247, but hit .297 in 2012 at Binghamton and followed by hitting .314 last year at Vegas with a Pacific Coast League-leading .435 OBP. His coaches picked him team MVP.
"Having that tough start in 2011 was really big for me," said Campbell, one of the last players cut by the Mets this year in spring training. "I followed it up with a good second half and the following two years were good years. I'm glad I went through it, because I learned a lot about myself as a person and a player. I wouldn't change my journey for anything."
It's only 125 miles from Norwich to the New York ballparks, but the journey to the majors can feel like 125 million miles. Matt Harvey, who played against NFA and Campbell with Fitch-Groton and later played with Campbell in Binghamton, knows that feeling. So do Campbell and Carignan. Campbell wasn't kidding that the two have been friends for life. Their 1995 summer elementary school projects were featured by the New London Day, Campbell doing his report on Lou Gehrig, Carignan on Cal Ripken.
Carignan, who graduated from NFA in 2004, underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2012 and then had labrum surgery in the summer of 2013. Signed to a minor-league deal with the Giants last December, he has been in extended rehab.
"Andrew's not far off," said Campbell, who finally arrived over the weekend. "There were no doubts I could play at this level. I know I could. I've played so many guys who got called up that I knew I belonged here. It's a matter of whether other people feel that way, too. This year the front office, I guess, felt I was ready. I'm very thankful."