Toronto

Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell has made almost 1,000 phone calls to lonely fans

When the 2020 Major League Baseball season was indefinitely delayed, Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell promised to call lonely fans struggling with social isolations. Weeks later, he's approaching 1,000 calls with no end in sight.

Campbell recently recruited former all-star Jesse Barfield to join him on a call

On what would have been Major League Baseball's opening day, the host of of Blue Jays Central on Sportsnet spent time phoning Canadian baseball fans who are in isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. 2:08

At 162 games, with the occasional double-header thrown in for good measure, the Major League Baseball season is often compared to a marathon.

But with the 2020 season delayed indefinitely, Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell has tapped into a new daily rhythm — phone calls with Jays fans struggling with social isolation and longing for their favourite pastime.

"Most days during the summer these people are accustomed to flipping on their TV and seeing my face or hearing my voice," said Campbell on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.  

"And though in most cases we've never met, they feel like I'm part of their family in some way."

Campbell announced in late March his plan to start calling Jays fans while play on the field is delayed.

Weeks later, he's kept up with the promise, logging each call in a journal that's now overflowing with entries.

"Oh goodness, I think I'm close to a thousand calls made," Campbell said.

It's a practice he picked up over the years after encounters with Jays fans in public, who would sometimes tell him about a particular family member who especially loved the team and broadcast crew.

Campbell would sometimes offer to call them on the spot, and surprise them with a quick hello.

With no baseball to cover, those phone conversations are now much more frequent, and often take on a heavier tone than in the pre-coronavirus days.

Listen to Blue Jays Central host Jamie Campbell on CBC's Metro Morning:

Jamie Campbell, host of Blue Jays Central on Sportsnet, decided to connect with people during 'this very strange period that we're going through right now' by making surprise phone calls to hundreds of baseball fans across the country. 5:31

Recently, Campbell has made repeated calls to a woman having a particularly hard time with life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, he even recruited former Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield, the 1986 American League home run leader, to surprise her over the phone too.

"I put her name on my fridge and I've promised to reach out to her frequently," Campbell added.

He also recently spoke to a Jays fan who lost both parents in the Nova Scotia mass shooting.

"It's a heavy burden, but I feel like I'm capable," Campbell told Metro Morning host David Common.

As for the conversations, each one is different, but Campbell said they include surprisingly little baseball talk.

"Oftentimes we talk about the struggle we're all dealing with right now," Campbell said. 

"We talk about our families, their children, my children, our futures, how we're getting through this, what we're going to do when it's all over."

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