Story provided by Dan Kinvig
UFV Cascades communications
While student-athletes did not consume eligibility during a 2020-21 season hampered by the pandemic, several longtime University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) standouts are graduating and moving on to new challenges.
Today, Chilliwack’s Liam Campbell reflects on his years with the UFV baseball club.
Q: You’re known as a leader in the UFV baseball program, and a big personality with a chirp for any occasion. Is that a fair assessment?
A: “(Laughs) I’m a quick-witted person – I’m very stimulated in my environment, I would say. Guys would agree that they can’t really get away with doing something on the ball field without me noticing. If you trip and fall, or if you forget something, no matter where I am on the field, I will see it and I will let you know about it!
“Baseball is a game of failure – it’s frustrating at times, and I can’t believe I’ve played it as long as I have, to be honest! (Laughs) I’m just joking through that failure with guys, trying to laugh at situations, keep things loose. I think that’s kind of the culture we’ve had the last few years where we’ve had a lot of success – very loose, but also very focused. We’re always joking around, laughing. I would like to think I’m the nucleus of that, just keeping guys loose. Especially for the newer guys coming in, it’s very easy to get integrated into that system when there’s someone like me and a few other guys who are so open and extroverted, just talking all the time.”
|Graduating UFV baseball player Liam Campbell.|
Q: Evan Petersen, Dylan Emmons and yourself are the three original Cascades still with the program, dating back to its probationary year in 2016 before the club became full Canadian Collegiate Baseball League (CCBC) members in 2017. What do those two guys mean to you?
A: “Oh man. I don’t even think I can put into words the relationship I have with those guys.
“The first time I ever met Dylan – this is a pretty funny story – we were in Grade 9. He was playing on his Kelowna summer ball team for bantam AA, and I was playing on the Chilliwack team. He was a stud even back then. I was on first base, and he was running to first after her got a hit. I was always told when I was playing first base that when you tag someone, let them know they’ve been tagged. Make them not want to be at first base. So when Dylan he gets to first base, I get the ball and I whack him with a tag. And he gets up, and he’s like, ‘What was that?’ I’m like, ‘Shut up, man!’ and I throw the ball back to the pitcher. He tells me where to go and how to get there, that sort of thing, and we start lipping each other off.
“Well, my bantam team, we went on to win provincials and were going to the Western Canadian championships. We got to pick up a few players from around the league to go with us. I show up to practice, and I see Dylan. I didn’t know his name, and while I’d heard the names of the guys we’d picked up, I didn’t know he was one of them. I see him roll up to practice, and I’m like, ‘Oh my.’ Last time we saw each other we were lipping each other off on the ball field. So we actually played together in Grade 9 and were Western Canadian champions together.
“The first year of Fraser Valley Collegiate Baseball, Dylan actually lived with my family, because we had gotten to know them. The following year, Evan moved in with my family as well, and obviously now Evan and I share a place.
“In terms of describing the relationship I have with those guys, it’s family. That’s the only word I can use to describe it. I’ve known them for years, been through the highs, been through the lows. It gets emotional thinking about those guys, where we started and where we are now.”
Q: You were part of the Cascades’ CCBC championship in 2019, and you were actually on the mound to close out the championship game. What was that moment like?
A: “It was surreal. Just talking about it now, I get goosebumps. That, for me personally, was probably the best weekend of baseball I’ve ever played in my life. We played eight games in four days, and I caught four nine-inning games, and I pitched in three of the other four games. So when I was out there in that last game, my body had nothing left to give. I was just out there with the ball in my hand, and I was glad I was out there, because I like to be in control. Even though I didn’t have anything left in the tank, I was just out there with my heart, putting it on the line for the guys.
“To go the four innings to seal the deal at the end, it’s a special moment. And to look back at it now as the last league game I’ve played, with COVID and stuff, it’s really a storybook ending. It seems like they could make a Netflix documentary about it or something, know what I mean? It was awesome, but as a team, the way we were going that weekend, we could have had our left fielder on the mound. We were so locked in that weekend. It just happened to be me.”
Q: You’re known for your work ethic and your willingness to take on an incredibly busy schedule – working multiple jobs, coaching youth baseball, playing for the Cascades, and keeping up with your academics all at the same time. How do you do it?
A: “A lot of times, people see it from the outside, and they think it was me and my work ethic. I will admit that it probably is a bit true. But I was very fortunate to have the relationships I’ve had with people during my time at UFV, whether it be at work, friendships, family, that have put me in those situations to succeed. I owe a lot of credit to my employers who understood the flexibility I needed and everything like that.
“When I came back this fall, I was working 44 hours a week at a wood production plant. I’d start at 6 a.m., work until 2:30, hustle to the field from 3 to 5 p.m. (for baseball practice), then go home and do my coursework online. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. But when I was in there doing the work, it was what I had to do to be able to go to school, be able to play, and do all the things I wanted to do.
“I don’t really have a secret formula I can share with everyone. I just kind of put my nose down and went forward.”
Q: You finished the coursework for your Bachelor of Kinesiology degree, plus an extended minor in psychology, back in December. What’s next for you?
A: “I actually start my Master’s degree in the coming weeks here, on May 3. I’m doing a Master’s of Counselling at Yorkville University. I was going to start in the fall, but they offered me a seat in the May intake. They asked if I wanted to start early, and I was like, ‘You mean I’ll finish early? Yes, absolutely!’
“I really got in touch with mental health and mental health awareness in 2020 when we had the first COVID shutdown. It really shook me to my core, really broke me down. I was in a really, really bad place … I remember sitting down with my parents and I just broke down and said I needed help. I can’t keep shouldering this myself, I can’t keep hiding in my room – I need to talk to someone. I’ve been going to counselling since then, a little bit over a year now, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
“When I was looking at my future, part of the reason I went into kinesiology was because I wanted to help people. I had a really bad shoulder injury when I was younger, went to physio, and thought that might be something I’d like to do. Well, as I went through my degree, it turns out physiotherapy is very, very difficult. I still had my eyes set on that … But as soon as I started going to counselling, and I started talking to Roger (Friesen) and Carl (Nienhuis), the sports psychs at UFV, I realized there are different ways to help people.
“After the COVID shutdown, if I didn’t go to counselling, I don’t know what would have happened to me. So I decided to go the counselling route. I want to help people the same way I was helped, and grow that field and continue to advocate for mental health awareness. We need to take care of our mind and our emotions the same way we take care of our bodies. We roll our ankle, and we’ll go buy an ankle brace right away. But if something bad happens, people don’t want to talk about it.
“I would say that’s what the future holds. The next two years, get that Master’s degree, and after that, just start helping people – getting them back on their feet, being that listening ear.
“I’m very fortunate to have figured out where I wanted to go.”