Former professional baseball player fires perfect game at 2021 USBC Open Championships

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LAS VEGAS - Jeffrey Campbell of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, knows a lot about throwing strikes, and the baseball player turned professional bowler tossed a whole bunch of them Monday at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

Since officially trading in his cleats for bowling shoes, Campbell has been a rising star on the lanes and was able to add to his family's legacy at the USBC Open Championships by rolling the first perfect game during team competition this year at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

It was the fifth 300 of the 2021 event, which features different lane conditions for team play and doubles/singles, while competition is being held across two venues for the first time in 117 years of tournament history. All team bowling is being done at the Bowling Plaza, and doubles/singles squads are taking place at the South Point Bowling Center.

Campbell's father, James, is a standout from the Professional Bowlers Association South Region, a 26-time Open Championships participant and a 2004 Team All-Events champion.

"Hearing my dad's name every year during the announcements here definitely is something special and something I strive for, and now we'll be announced together every time we come back," Campbell said. "It feels great to accomplish this. I was nervous, for sure, and my heart was racing. It took me a while to calm down after. That game is up there with the time I made a run at 300 during the (USBC) Masters, and it actually might be the best game I've ever bowled."

The 28-year-old right-hander was able to remain focused with help from his experienced teammates and companion team members, a group that includes five-time PBA Tour champion Tom Milton and two-time PBA Tour champion Jeff Bellinger.

Campbell's memorable 12-bagger came between games of 238 and 227 for a 765 series.

TopofLinePoolService2004ForWeb300x169His performance helped Top of the Line Pool Service of Clearwater, Florida, to games of 1,075, 1,010 and 1,119 for a 3,204 total and a tie for sixth place in Regular Team. Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 of La Crosse, Wisconsin, leads with 3,287.

Shaun Goucher added a 651 series for Top of the Line Pool Service and was followed by Milton (632), Gregory Ickes (616) and Darlene Milton (540).

The elder Campbell, who anchored Top of the Line Pool Service to the Team All-Events victory in 2004, was supposed to be on the lanes Monday, but he has been sidelined by a bicep injury. He was on-site in Las Vegas, however, so he got to witness his son's big moment.

"I love bowling the national tournament, and it has been special to share this experience with my son over the last few years," James Campbell said. "Even with the injury, I was coming out here no matter what, and it's always fun to watch your kid bowl. To do something like this, I mean, 300 doesn't happen every day, so it was amazing to watch."CampbellJeffreyJames2021OCForWeb300x169

While bowling always has been a part of Jeffrey Campbell's life, it took a back seat while he focused on his baseball career.

He played baseball until he was 25, enjoying a noteworthy collegiate career with North Dakota from 2012-2015, before a win at the 2015 College Home Run Derby on ESPN helped him earn a contract with the Atlanta Braves organization.

After being released, he turned his attention to coaching and was able to begin bowling again, too. The first of his five consecutive Open Championships appearances came in 2016, and his first PBA regional title came a few years later.

"This is second behind winning the home run derby, which I basically went into knowing my career was on the line, since I didn't get drafted that year, and I stepped up," Campbell said. "I've taken some of that drive and fire into bowling, sometimes too much, which I'm working on. There's a lot of similarities in the routine. I try to take it one shot at a time and go through the process, just like I did when I was pitching or hitting."

Campbell spent his career on the pitcher's mound or at first base, and he only bowled occasionally while on that journey.

In recent years, his coaching job in Sioux Falls has allowed him to have a normal work week during the offseason and travel to bowling events on the weekends.

He works hard to make sure his bowling game is sharp, and getting ready for Monday's team event at the Bowling Plaza meant spending an hour and half over the weekend working with Bellinger on hand positions and releases.

With summer around the corner, Campbell's time for bowling will be limited. Having a successful trip to the 2021 Open Championships would be a nice way end his tournament season, as he prepares to spend up to six days a week on the baseball field.

Campbell and his teammates will look to continue their momentum during doubles and singles Tuesday at the South Point Bowling Center at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The strikes will need to pile up once again if they are going to catch Team All-Events leader, Striking Edge Pro Shop of Wausau, Wisconsin, which tops the standings with a 9,831 total.

Team All-Events is the combined all-events totals of all five team members.

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