July 18, 2008
By John Philip Wyllie
It has been a long, arduous road from the dirt fields of Tijuana to the manicured infields of the National League for Atlanta Braves pitcher, Jorge Campillo. His mother passed away while he was still in grammar school and he was raised by his grandmother and his dad. Life wasn’t easy growing up without a mom, but his participation on the baseball diamond was encouraged. By his teen years Campillo had developed into a formidable pitcher. Baseball became his refuge. Montgomery High’s extraordinary coach, Manny Hermosillo, remembers his 1996 campaign, the only season that he pitched for his always tough Aztecs.
“He made a great impression with the way he pitched and with his poise. Jorge was a first team All-League player that year. He played with my son. He had a decent fast ball, but his main pitch was the change-up. Hitters were baffled by that pitch. He used the same motion that he used on his fast ball and he had great deception on it. It brought him a lot of success,” Hermosillo said.
It also brought him his first contract when at the age of 17 he began pitching professionally in Mexico. Campillo spent eight seasons in the Mexican Pacific League pitching for Tigres de Mexico and later Culiacan. His impressive 2005 season with the Tomateros earned him a tryout with the Seattle Mariners, but his stint in rainy Seattle would prove to be a brief one. After retiring four batters in his first start with the Mariners, he blew out his elbow. The injury required season-ending Tommy John surgery and threatened his career. Not one to give up easily, Campillo rehabbed his elbow and came back the next year to pitch briefly in Seattle. 2007 brought him a few more MLB appearances and then in the off-season he was picked up by the Braves.
This season has been one of redemption for the soon to be 30 year old. Using his deceptive off-speed pitches and his control in hitting his spots he has found a home in the Braves starting rotation. At the All-Star break his record stood at 4-4 with an ERA of 3.06. Campillo has recorded 59 strike outs to date including four in Sunday’s 12-3 victory over the struggling Padres. His return home was a joyous one, but one that cost him a bit of money.
“When I was a child my favorite team was the San Diego Padres, so I am very excited to be back home. I had to get 40 tickets just for my family and I know a lot of my friends were planning to come too. Maybe I won’t be getting anything with my next paycheck,” Campillo joked.
He nearly missed out on his San Diego Major League debut. Where it not for the support of his wife he probably would have.
“This year in spring when I didn’t make the Braves (40-man) roster and I was (relegated) to Triple A I told my wife that I wanted to go back to Mexico. I thought I had missed my chance to pitch in the big leagues. My wife said let’s give it one more year and hope we get another opportunity. I think that was a good choice.”