Author: Campbell Ellis
Edited by: Jayson Eljawhary
My name is Campbell Ellis, former Ontario Terriers player, and I am a left-handed pitcher going into my senior year at Virginia Commonwealth University. I have thrown over 150 innings at the Division 1 level, posting a 3.27 ERA in 27.2 innings during my freshman year and a 3.25 ERA in 74.1 innings during my sophomore year. I have won two conference championships and have pitched in 2 NCAA Regionals.
In high school, I played for the Ontario Terriers for 4 years and trained at The Baseball Zone every day I could. I was fortunate enough to win a National Championship in 2018 playing for Team Ontario in the Canada Cup, attend Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre twice, and participate in the PBR Future Games. I was always one of the best pitchers on my team during high school, but the college level has presented many different challenges and hurdles.
When I arrived on campus in August of 2020 to start my collegiate career, the first thing I noticed was that I was undersized. I came to campus at 6’4”, 180lbs, while other freshmen and teammates with similar height weighed around 190-220lbs – I knew that I needed to get stronger. Playing for the Terriers made me understand the weight room and taught me the correct techniques for the variety of exercises/movements that the sport of baseball demands. I may have been smaller compared to my teammates, but I had the correct technique and work ethic that I learned from training with the Terriers and Coach Boots (Strength Coordinator Rick Boutillier). This allowed me to focus solely on putting on size by eating as much as I could and lifting heavier. As a result, I am now 6’4”, 220 lbs, and lift as much weight as anyone on my team.
My second hurdle in college was my lack of velocity on the mound when I got to campus. In my first bullpen, I topped out at 83 mph and was in shock when my teammates were sitting in the mid to upper 80s. I knew right away that I had some work to do mechanically, and to catch up/surpass my teammates, I needed to be willing to do more than everyone else. This involved going over video with my coaches, doing extra dry work (non-throwing drills) and mobility exercises, continuing to put on healthy weight, and trusting myself every single day. When spring came around, I was sitting around 84-85 mph and topping out at 87-88 mph each outing.
I have stuck to this process each year, am now sitting around 89-90 mph, and have topped out at 93 mph. The biggest thing I learned from my velocity hurdle was that even though I lacked velocity, I could still get outs and that is what would ultimately put me on the mound. I have played with many players over the years who have thrown hard, but do not get innings because they do not get outs. The ability to throw strikes and having more than one pitch is what matters – velocity just helps making those strikes even harder to hit.
Another challenge I had to face was the realization that playing baseball at a high level requires some sacrifices. I thought I understood what that meant in high school when I made the decision to quit hockey, but that was just the beginning. Summer baseball is something that all players at any collegiate level must commit to – most of the time, you are placed on a team in a different state/province, meaning you are away from home for most of the summer.
Another sacrifice I needed to make was prioritizing my training over things like hanging out with my friends late at night and eating fast food all the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with your friends or must eat 100% clean all the time, but there are going to be times when you might have to say no to try and get to that next level. I made the decision that I had to make sacrifices in my life that most people don’t to be the best baseball player I can be, and that has changed my career.
The most recent challenge I had to face came later in my college career. I had never really struggled in my career before, and my junior year hit me like a truck. I was the opening-day starter for the second consecutive season, and I struggled right away. I’ve had bad outings before, as everyone has, but never had a stretch of bad outings that lingered for the majority of a season. I have played with a lot of players who were faced with injuries, failures, setbacks, bad luck, and other challenges who let their struggles and ensuing negativity become the downfall of their careers. The one thing I needed to realize is that the game of baseball is a game of failure, and the results are always unpredictable.
Winning is awesome and I have won a lot of games and rings in my career – losing stinks and no one wants to lose, but losing is also how we learn and that is how you need to look at failure. I needed to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be perfect every time and that the process of perfecting your craft and preparing yourself the best you can is what you need to be focused on. Once the ball is out of a pitcher’s hand or the ball is batted, there is nothing you can do to control the outcome of the game. All you can do is prepare yourself the best you can and put trust in your work. Don’t let those failures or setbacks define your game or the way you go about playing the game!
The final thing that I would like to touch on is the importance of maintaining good grades. I have done a great job of this so far, but I have seen many talented players get cut or become ineligible to play because they didn’t. Your baseball coach has no power when it comes to keeping you on the field if your grades are not up to the standards set by the school, no matter how good you are. Being a student-athlete is time-consuming, and you need to have the time-management skills to stay on top of things because it piles up if you don’t.
Playing collegiate baseball has been the greatest experience of my life and I am extremely fortunate to say that I am pursuing my dream every day. The Terriers organization did a tremendous job at preparing me for the next level and I am proud to be a Terrier alumnus.