All these years later, Mike Campbell still remembers his early days on the job as Lewisville’s head baseball coach back in 1974.
The softball field across campus where his Fighting Farmers used to practice and play games. The swath of one-school towns he once shared a district with.
Campbell made no shortage of memories during his years in the dugout at Lewisville. After 47 of them, during which he amassed 703 career wins, the Fighting Farmers’ longtime baseball coach has retired.
“I love Lewisville and I’m very thankful that they let me stay,” Campbell said. “It’s fun getting to know the people and being part of a community for so much of your life. I think that’s the real reason. I just enjoyed being part of this community and still do.”
Campbell only spent one other year in his coaching career outside of Lewisville. Before donning the Farmers’ maroon and white, Campbell coached at the middle school level in Grand Prairie.
Lewisville marked Campbell’s first head coaching job — a position he interviewed for just before turning 23 years old — and one he had ambitions of keeping from the get-go, even though that might have run counter to how coaching positions operated at the time.
“They changed coaches about every year back then and I just didn’t want to be that. I wanted to stay, but I had no idea it would be 47 years,” Campbell said.
Campbell recalls duking it out with the likes of Plano, Carrollton RL Turner, Paris, Sherman, Denison and Greenville during his initial years at the helm. The 1977 season stood out as a turning point for the program under Campbell, a year that resulted in a playoff berth and began the Farmers’ upward trajectory under their head coach.
Of course, Lewisville was still yearning for its own diamond on campus at the time.
“When we started, our games and practices were on a softball field that was basically across the street diagonal from the high school where the police station and library are,” Campbell said. “That’s where our field was — an all-dirt infield.
“About five years later, coach Max Goldsmith got it worked out to build a field on campus, but that it would be done in a place about 4 acres on the east side of campus, and it had woods and a tank in it. It was a thickly wooded area with a tank right in the middle of it, so that had to be done.”
The Farmers took off in 1981, a year Campbell recalls Lewisville advancing to the state quarterfinals — at the time, only three rounds in the playoffs were played prior to the state tournament — before falling to eventual state champion Lubbock Monterey. Lewisville would later make trips to the regional quarterfinals in 1998 and 1999.
“I knew if I stayed at one school forever that there would be good years and bad years, and we’ve had our share of each,” Campbell said. “But I like being at one place. I enjoyed the kids. I coached football, too (as a wide receivers coach), and had a great time doing that — being involved in our playoff runs in both football and baseball.
“It was always fun, but I knew it would be up and down as they started adding more schools and taking people away from you. It’s a school that I love and a community I love. I’m just grateful to God that I was allowed to stay for 47 years.”
The landscape has changed plenty since Campbell’s early days on the job, from the sheer wealth of high schools in the area right down to the basics of the way baseball is played.
“Nowadays, everyone throws fastballs, curveballs, sliders and changeups,” Campbell said. “Back in that day, it was pretty much fastball and curveball. Kids are bigger and stronger now than they were then.”
One of the constants, however, has been the man in the Lewisville dugout. Campbell said opportunities to venture elsewhere cropped up along the way, including a junior college jobs, but nothing that was ultimately enough to pry him from the Farmers.
“I didn’t feel like uprooting my family or taking a cut in pay just to have the status as a junior college coach,” Campbell said. “There were a couple high school things that were out there, but I just liked where I was.”
Like any coach, Campbell said he’ll miss his players most. He’s found great reward in that developmental process over the years, even getting the opportunity to coach his own son, Stephen, who’s the head baseball coach at Irving.
“Even at my age, I enjoy these kids. They’ve always played hard for me and you always enjoy seeing that as a coach,” Campbell said. “I love the game. Just the day-to-day being the leader of something is fun and that’s no longer there. Taking care of the field, taking care of the team and the assistant coaches — the everyday routine was a lot of fun, to be honest.”
Campbell said he gave thought to retiring following the 2020 season but felt there wouldn’t be proper closure amid to the COVID-19 shutdown. One year later, he admits that he hoped to “walk off into the sunset” without much fanfare.
“It’s been great, though. I had a friend tell me last night that I had to embrace all this,” Campbell said. “I’ve never been the kind of guy who likes attention, but he said that I needed to embrace it. Now it’s here and I’ll do the best with it that I can.”
As Campbell ponders his next move, the longtime ball coach still hopes to be around the Lewisville baseball program in some capacity — in fact, even as recently as Thursday, he’s still tending to his 47-year-old hobby of taking care of the Farmers’ field.
“It’s probably time to do something a little different. I’ll get to enjoy my grandkids more,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t mean that I’ll be separated from the program or not be around, but I’ll just not have to get up each morning and teach class. It’ll be a little less of all that, and I can have a little time to do some other things.”