Cubs rookie outfielder Campana a real odds-beater
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 18, 2011 10:12PM
Chicago Cubs' Tony Campana scores as Florida Marlins catcher John Buck tries to make the tag during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 18, 2011, in Miami. The Cubs won 7-5. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Updated: June 22, 2011 7:00PM
MIAMI — When he was 7, Tony Campana used to entertain friends by reaching up and pulling out a clump of hair from his head.
‘‘I thought it was kind of funny, I guess,’’ the Cubs’ rookie outfielder said. ‘‘I think it was a good thing that I was a little kid, because I don’t think I really knew the extent of how much I was sick.’’
Campana had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and required surgery at age 7 to remove a tumor, followed by eight months of hair-robbing chemotherapy — then 10 more years of checkups and tests until he was in remission long enough for doctors to declare him cured.
For all the people who told him he’d never make it in baseball because of his 5-6, lightweight frame, Campana knew that beating those odds was nothing.
‘‘I think that’s why I am the way I am,’’ he said, ‘‘kind of fighting and battling through everything. Like when people tell me I can’t do something, I don’t really listen.’’
In Tuesday’s major-league debut in Cincinnati, Campana scored a run as a pinch-runner. In his first at-bat, he hit a RBI double.
As Cubs first-base coach and former minor-league instructor Bobby Dernier said of Campana before the debut, ‘‘This will be the second-hardest thing he’s ever done.’’
On Wednesday against the Florida Marlins, Campana pinch-ran for Alfonso Soriano and scored on a nifty slide on a failed fielder’s choice in the eighth inning.
Where Campana, 24, goes from here is up to him. Manager Mike Quade doesn’t have any immediate plans to get him a start, though the well-schooled, speedy player bunts well and plays all three outfield spots.
Considering that he’s a 13th-round draft pick, has never been to spring training and wasn’t even on the 40-man roster when the week started, betting against Campana’s ability to stick and contribute might not be such a wise bet.
‘‘I proved that I can definitely help the team,’’ said Campana, who was hitting .342 at Class AAA Iowa when called up. ‘‘That kind of makes me excited to go out and try to do it every day, and try to get some wins. Now I’ve just got to prove myself so I can stay.’’
Sub for Soriano?
With the continued defensive breakdowns this week and razor-thin margins the Cubs are working with nightly, don’t be surprised to see left-fielder Soriano get replaced for defensive purposes when the Cubs are leading, as he was Wednesday night.
‘‘It’s not going to be an automatic thing,’’ Quade said. ‘‘But it’s great to have a kid like Campana. He’s pretty damn good. And he can fly. If we have a lead and I can inject him in there and make a difference defensively, or have him steal a base or whatever, we’re going to do that.’’
The Cubs started play Wednesday ranked 13th in the National League in fielding, but 11 of their 29 errors have come in the three games they’ve played in the rain — Tuesday, Saturday and April 24. The errors led to 13 unearned runs.
‘‘We’re not mudders, man,’’ said noted horse man Quade. ‘‘If it’s raining, it’s not a good deal.’’
On the other hand, the Reds, Giants and Rockies committed three errors in those three games combined. And despite all that, none of the games was decided by more than three runs.
‘‘In between those situations, we’ve been much more solid defensively,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Maybe I should turn the sprinklers on at Wrigley when we have an off day, and we’ll work on our fundamentals.’’