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Prep baseball: End of the Kampsen era

Paynesville's Jason Kampsen takes a cut at a pitch in this file photograph from the Bulldogs' game against Morris/Chokio-Alberta earlier this season. Kampsen, a senior, is the last of four brothers who have held down the No. 3 spot in Paynesville's batting order the last 11 years.

For almost a dozen years, Paynesville baseball coach Brad Skoglund hasn't had to make many alterations to the third line in his scorebook.

But next season, for the first time in 11 years, Skoglund's roster will be lacking one of Liza Kampsen's four boys.

"All of them were good enough that all I had to do was pencil in 'Kampsen' in the No. 3 spot in the lineup," said Skoglund, whose Bulldogs play Foley at 5 p.m. today in the first round of the Section 6AA East Subsection playoffs. "Year after year, all I had to do was change the first name."

Jason Kampsen, a Bulldogs senior, team leader and Kampsen family tail-ender, graduates this spring. He has a scholarship to join his brother, Shane, on St. Cloud State University's baseball team in the fall.

Kampsen also is a standout football player, but he said his heart has always pulled him towards the diamond.

"I looked at football but I like baseball," Kampsen said. "It's all about fun and baseball has always been the most fun for me."

Jason Kampsen was just a tot when his older brothers took him out into the big yard of the family's home near Lake Henry. Brother Josh is a 2003 Paynesville graduate who now lives in Perham. Adam, a 2004 graduate, lives in Kentucky, and Shane graduated in 2008 and played baseball at Ridgewater College before redshirting this past season at SCSU.

"We'd always be out in the yard, hitting ground balls, having fun, getting better," Jason said. "It definitely helped. They taught me at a young age how to get the right stuff. They pushed me."

Jason was probably on Skoglund's radar not long after he first joined the Lake Henry kindergarten team.

"When Jason was little, Josh and Adam were always dragging him around to games," Skoglund said. "He was always at the park. He'd be in the dugout with them."

All that exposure, along with natural talents, turned Jason into a complete player, Skoglund said.

"Like his brothers, Jason has tremendous power," he said. "He grew up with the game so he really knows how it should be played. He has great baseball instincts."

This season, Jason is hitting about .444 with eight doubles, a couple of home runs and 12 runs batted in. As a pitcher, he is 3-0.

His power at the plate was evident earlier this month during a Bulldogs game against New London-Spicer at Green Lake Diamond. Kampsen blasted a pitch over the left field fence that Skoglund estimated traveled 450 feet, even with a new BBCOR bat that has sapped hitters' power in their first season of use.

"If we still had the old bats, that one might have gone 500 feet," Skoglund said. "That was just a shot."

For a Kampsen, it wasn't that unusual. If memory serves Skoglund correctly, he believes all four Kampsen boys hit .400 or better in their years as starters. It's why St. Cloud State coaches went after his hard, he said.

"They think he's one of the best players in the state," Skoglund said. "They're very high on him."

The opportunity to play with Shane was a major factor in Jason's school choice, but the Huskies' reputation was a draw, as well.

"They have a great program there," Jason said. "They really take the game serious and play it the right way, and that's what I wanted."

But first there's the small task of keeping the Bulldogs alive in his final playoff run, starting today with the Falcons.

"We're doing all right," Jason said, "but we can definitely be doing better. We have a really good team. It's taken some time but we're starting to hit. I like my numbers and I'm happy with how the team is doing."

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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