State of the Hogs: For Campbells, significance of LSU weekend goes beyond baseball

By: Clay Henry
Published: Friday, May 10, 2019
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell looks toward the plate during a game against LSU on Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell looks toward the plate during a game against LSU on Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Fayetteville.

— Deanna Campbell laughs a lot and often. Isaiah Campbell’s mother is sweet, smart and, as Isaiah pointed out in our first interview, “very athletic.”

The ace of the Arkansas staff was quick to mention in a lengthy visit several years ago that “my athletic ability comes from my mom.”

That produced much laughter from Deanna after she finished a big family brunch Friday morning in Fayetteville as sort of a graduation reunion with other members of the family, now based in Olathe, Kan.

It was perfect timing. Isaiah had a Thursday night start against LSU, and shut down the Tigers on a hitter’s night with the wind blowing out of the ballpark. He did his thing, limiting the hard-hitting Tigers to four hits and two runs in a solid six-inning start as the division-leading Razorbacks romped, 14-4.

The Campbell family (from left): Parry, Isaiah, Taylor and Deanna.

The focus afterward was on the five home runs the Razorbacks socked. The three spots at the post-game interview table were all occupied by part of the home run gang. Campbell didn’t get an invitation to the media room.

That’s probably fine with Isaiah. He’s perfectly fine with just doing his job. But the key to the victory was his work early in the game when LSU was still thinking it might hang with the Razorbacks.

It was typical Campbell. He’s been everything Blaine Knight was to the Razorbacks last year on the way to the the College World Series. Knight, who finished the season 14-0, was 8-0 through 13 starts. Campbell is 9-1.

Interestingly, one of Campbell’s best performances was probably in his only loss, at Vanderbilt, the SEC’s overall leader. The slugging Commodores got just three runs against Campbell in 7 2/3 innings. The Hogs just couldn’t do much against Vandy pitching that night and lost 3-2.

Knight’s numbers were good last year. He pitched 112 1/3 innings with a 2.80 ERA. He had 102 strikeouts, allowed 25 walks and held hitters to a .230 average.

Campbell’s may be better. He’s got a 2.57 ERA with 91 strikeouts against 14 walks. He’s at 84 innings now, with opposing hitters at just .211.

There’s no doubt that Campbell has zoomed up the draft board by returning for his redshirt junior year. He probably passed up quite a bit of money last year, but doubled it by returning.

That’s not what his mom talked about Friday morning. It was that Isaiah already has his degree. That’s important in their family. Older sister Taylor already has two degrees. Mom has two, as well, including a Masters in business.

There was a long time when Deanna didn’t get to really use it as she followed her husband, Parry, all over Europe. He was an air traffic controller for the Air Force, stationed in the Azores, Germany and Turkey. Taylor was born in Glendale, Ariz., when Parry worked at Luke Air Force Base. Isaiah was born in the Azores.

Isaiah told me all of that in the first interview, as mentioned. And, he was fast to point out that mom played every sport as a high schooler in tiny Lewis, Kan.

“I don’t know how good I was,” Deanna said. “But I did have fun. I played every sport we had. That’s the beauty of growing up in a small town. You could play everything.

“We had 80 in our school and there were only 20 in my graduating class. So I played volleyball and basketball. I changed after the girls game and was cheerleader when the boys played. At halftime, I went up into the bleachers and played with the band.

“I was not a good athlete, but it was fun. Parry was the athlete. He was a very good baseball player in high school.”

Deanna tells a funny story of a 2005 trip back to her hometown.

“It is small,” she said. “Isaiah and Taylor both wanted to know what I did for fun because there is nothing there.

“I told them it was the same as when they grew up in Germany or Turkey. I rode bikes and hung out with my friends. They did the same thing.”

There is a difference. When they lived in Germany, a weekend could be a trip on the Autobahn to France or Austria.

“But we lived in a Cul-de-sac in Germany and Isaiah grew up riding a bike there and shooting baskets,” Deanna said. “I taught him to ride bikes just like I was taught. So in that respect, it was the same.”

The other difference is that there was never family anywhere close.

“Our family was the other (families) in the military,” she said. “We’d go to church and we were all family there.”

Military life was different, too. Deanna adapted in her professional life as they traveled the world.

“I had a Masters in business, but I just did what was there on the base,” she said. “I basically was a secretary in headquarters for a major in headquarters in the Azores. He was the liaison between the U.S. government and the Portuguese government.

“Then, in Germany, I worked for the colonel in headquarters. I was the accountant for the base chapel when we were in Turkey.

“Finally, it got to the point where Parry was gone so much that it made sense just to start a daycare in Germany so I could spend more time with Isaiah and Taylor. Parry was gone it seemed like three out of four weeks. Running the daycare was easier.”

The Campbells are tight-knit, but you would not know it watching them follow Isaiah.

“No, we can’t sit together,” Deanna said. “Parry is behind home plate on the concourse behind home plate. I’m in a seat a few sections over. We have not sat together since Isaiah was in the ninth grade.

“Parry moans, makes these noises, and he said I just talk. I do say complete sentences, Parry just makes noises that are terrible.”

It was funny when ESPN cameras found Parry at the College World Series last year. There was no Deanna.

“I got texts - where are you?” she said. “I replied that I’m there, too, but a few rows away. We are not going to sit together.”

They didn’t make the trip to Kentucky last weekend and tried watching together as Campbell beat the Wildcats.

“We watched TV in our family room,” she said. “All I can say about it is that we made it through.”

It’s not like Deanna is on easy street watching her son pitch.

“We had friends at the game last night against LSU and they sat with me,” she said. “One of the friends sat next to me and my leg was tapping constantly. She reached over and touched my leg to make it stop.

“I will also say that we made the trip to Alabama and Parry and I sat together with some friends I grew up with. It was a disaster (sitting together).”

There was laughter for emphasis. It is fun to listen to Deanna talk about her son.

“I’m stinking proud of him,” she said. “He’s got his degree and there was talk about him signing (pro) out of high school. It was absolutely the right thing to do. We know some friends from high school who signed and he’s still struggling in Class A.

“This was right for Isaiah. He’s matured so much. Everything about this has been perfect.”

Arkansas baseball players (from left) Matt Cronin, Cody Scroggins and Isaiah Campbell pose with their academic advisor, Britta DeLay (right), during a graduation ceremony.

Campbell came to school with thoughts of majoring in biochemistry. His degree plan changed because of the intensity of the baseball schedule. Late-night labs for biochemistry were not doable.

“His degree is in criminal justice and he loves it,” she said. “His goal is to get into forensic science. He’s always liked science.”

And, he’s always been “a sports nerd.”

Deanna said Parry, nearby during the phone interview, agreed with the assessment.

“You go back to when he was really young, he watched SportsCenter and knew all the sports data,” he said. “He had it all memorized. I thought he might be able to turn out to be a sports announcer. He knows the data.

“And, he loves non-fiction. That’s the book he came home with from the library, something with facts and he remembers them all. He’s a data nerd.

“He loved to play games like ‘name the mascot,’ and his friends really didn’t want to play with him. He knew them all, every team in every sport, pro or college. He also is a geography nerd. He can name all the capitals from states or countries. Some don’t want to play with him. He is really good.”

So far, everyone loves Isaiah Campbell, especially on the mound. He struggled some last year with some mechanical issues throwing from the stretch. There’s hardly been anything to critique with him this season.

“We look at his time at Arkansas as such a blessing,” Deanna said. “He’s matured here and has lifetime friends. He’s overcome adversity here and it’s all been so good.”

Really good is the perfect way to describe the Campbells, no matter where they’ve been across the world.


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