The outfielder was added to the Cubs' roster on Tuesday just in time for their game against the Reds. Campana grew up in Springboro, Ohio, which is a 35-minute drive north from Cincinnati. His parents, Mark and Faye, picked him and pitcher Scott Maine up at the airport to make sure they got to Great American Ball Park.
It was almost a perfect debut, too, as Campana entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh and scored the tie-breaking run, giving Chicago a 4-3 lead. He stayed in the game in left field and hit an RBI double in his first big league at-bat in the eighth. But the Reds spoiled the storyline by scoring four unearned runs in the bottom of the inning for a 7-5 victory.
"It's pretty much a dream come true, other than the outcome of the game," Campana said. "I couldn't be happier to come out, get a hit, score a run and get an RBI."
He had a huge group of fans sitting behind the visitor's dugout at Great American Ball Park.
"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be," he said of his first at-bat. "Since I got in to pinch-run that helped out. I'd been out in the field and my nerves went away."
He has a souvenir from the day other than jet lag. He got the lineup card and the ball from his first hit.
Campana and Maine were recalled from Triple-A Iowa, and outfielder Tyler Colvin and pitcher Marcos Mateo were optioned to the Minor League team.
"It came as a total shock to me," Maine said. "[Campana] got called in [to Iowa manager Bill Dancy's office] and then he came out and I said, 'Are you going up?' and I jumped for joy. He's a non-roster guy and I was happy for him."
Then, Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason called the left-hander over.
"I'm like, 'Uh oh, what did I do?'" Maine said.
The two flew together from Reno, Nev., stopping in Salt Lake City, Utah, before arriving in Cincinnati.
In 30 games with Iowa, Campana was batting .342 (41-for-120) with eight doubles, two triples and nine RBIs. He'd stolen eight bases and been caught once, and brings speed. He'll be used as a defensive sub and pinch-runner.
"The way we're set up now and the way Reed [Johnson] is playing, we thought we needed somebody with a different look who can run," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He can give Mike [Quade] some options on double switching, and run late in the game and get a bunt down instead of just a bat off the bench or a lesser defender."
A 13th-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Campana, who turns 25 on May 30, graduated from the University of Cincinnati. A non-roster invitee, he wasn't even in the Cubs' big league camp this spring.
"I was just expecting to go to Triple-A and play as good as I could there, and honestly, I was hoping maybe I'd get a September callup at best," he said. "This is a real pleasant surprise."
And perfect timing.
"Getting to come home to play is a dream come true," he said.
Campana had to turn his phone off because of all the calls from well-wishers. He had to tell some of his college buddies to buy their own ticket.
An Indians fan growing up, Campana went to games at old Riverfront Stadium as well as Great American Ball Park. He used to sit way up in the nosebleed seats. He's listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, but Campana looks smaller.
"When I was in high school, all the coaches I talked to said, 'You're a little too small to play college ball,'" he said. "Once I got to [University of] Cincinnati, they were like, 'Well, he's a little too small to play pro ball.' I got drafted after my senior year and then it was 'Well, he's fast. Let's see what else happens.'"
"'Campy' can run," Quade said. "He plays great defense. He'll slap it around and help us win a ballgame late. He can do things that we haven't had available."
Being small is nothing compared to what Campana had to deal with as a youngster. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma at age 7 and underwent six months of chemo. It didn't stop him. Some of his pre-Cubs highlights include a .418 average his senior year of high school and 104 stolen bases his junior year at Cincinnati.
On Tuesday, he was simply an anxious big leaguer.
"Campana was nervous today so I helped him along," said Maine, who made 13 relief outings last year with the Cubs. "I knew what to expect more than he would. He didn't have any idea."
What did Maine tell him?
"[I said] 'You're a big leaguer now, and no one is going to take that away from you and you have to act like it,'" Maine said.