Jamie Campbell has a good read on the pulse of the nation. He’s been getting it one phone call at a time.
The host of Toronto Blue Jays Central on Sportsnet TV zoned in early on that the social distancing brought about to combat the novel coronavirus could be tough on people. He put out on Twitter that if you had a Blue Jays fan in your life missing baseball or having a hard time in general, to direct message him contact information and he’d telephone the person.
He was thinking grandparents, in particular.
Campbell got out a notebook and started writing down names and numbers as they began to appear in his DMs. He thought initially he might get 50 requests total. On Wednesday morning, he said that he’s closing in on 1,000 phone calls since he put it out initially on March 17.
“There are lonely people. There are scared people,” explained Campbell, 52, who grew up a Blue Jays fan as a kid in Oakville, Ont. “There was a gentleman two days ago and he seemed to be in great, great spirits at the start of the call, but by the end of it he was in tears. You have to ride that emotion with them. I feel like I’m taking on a little bit of it, but I’m OK to do that. I’m feeling inwardly strong.”
He was quick to say that the mood of the calls is generally positive and that he’s getting a lot out of this exercise, considering how people are opening up to him.
Campbell has talked to folks from coast to coast, hitting every province multiple times.
“I spoke to a lady in Saskatoon. She’s 98 or 99 years old. She made it through the Depression and she said, ‘This is nothing,’ ” Campbell said. “She has a point. We can stay home, watch Netflix and message people on Instagram.
“People are sharing their lives with me. They’re opening their hearts to me. We’ll talk baseball. It’s the opening topic, it’s the icebreaker. It moves on from there to how you are making out in the pandemic and what kind of things you’ve been doing to keep busy and how your kids and your family are doing.”
Ed and Dianne Kunderman, who live in Port Alberni, are among the people with whom Campbell has connected.
They were watching a rebroadcast of Game 2 of the 2015 American League Division Series between the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers on Sportsnet at 8:30 p.m. one night when the phone rang. It was a Toronto area number. Dianne answered and thought it was someone playing a gag, because Campbell certainly couldn’t have been calling for them out of the blue. She handed the phone to Ed.
“Jamie told me who it was and asked if I knew the name and I told him, ‘You’re the voice of the Blue Jays,’ ” recalled Ed, a father of two and grandfather of two whose son put Campbell in touch. “Jamie told me, ‘Thank you. At this point in time, though, I’m basically unemployed.’
“It was a very relaxing call. It was very friendly.”
Campbell also spoke to Powell River’s Richard and Nora Benson. They’ve got four kids and three grandkids, and one of the grandkids forwarded their number to Campbell.
“Jamie Campbell is a young guy that we know from watching Blue Jays games and for him to take a moment in this ridiculous time in the world to call us was special,” said Nora. “I hope he keeps doing it. It’s something we’ve thought about many times since it happened.”
Campbell focused a week ago Wednesday on speaking to Blue Jays fans of all ages from Nova Scotia. Among those he linked up with was Tyler Blair, 27.
Blair’s dad Greg and stepmother Jamie were among those killed in the previous weekend’s mass shootings . They left behind three other children: Craig, 24, Alex, 12, and Jack, 10.
Greg had always said he wanted to one day take the four boys to a Blue Jays’ game. Campbell has pledged that he’ll spearhead an effort to make that happen.
“When they’re ready to come up for air and we’re back playing baseball, we’ll fly them here and we’ll get them tickets and we’ll get them on the field to meet whomever they want to meet,” Campbell said.
He said he spoke to a 93-year-old Duncan Graham from Judique, N.S., who scored New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series while listening to it and later had a picture of his handiwork tweeted out. Campbell also spoke to David Koffman from Aurora, Ont., who recounted watching pitcher Whitey Ford’s last game with the Yankees on May 21, 1967 at old Tiger Stadium. That date was significant to Campbell, since he was born the day before.
Campbell said most people he speaks to what to know when baseball will start up again — he says he has no idea — and how things looked with the Blue Jays at spring training before action was shut down. He frequently hears from fans about how excited they are to see the development of the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Nate Pearson. The Nat Bailey Stadium faithful witnessed plenty of Pearson’s blazing fastball when he played with the Vancouver Canadians in 2017.
“This has reminded me how the Blue Jays reach every single corner of this country,” Campbell said.
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020