Jamie Campbell, Oakville-born sports commentator, is battling leukemia


Published March 16, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Oakville native Jamie Campbell, who has had central roles on telecasts of Toronto Blue Jays games for nearly one-third of the team’s existence, revealed tonight that he has leukemia.

The 54-year-old Rogers Sportsnet commentator, who has been covering the Blue Jays’ lockout-delayed spring training in Dunedin, Fla., wrote on Twitter that he is undergoing treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He said he plans to be on-camera in his role as the host of “Blue Jays Central,” the pregame show for Sportsnet’s telecasts, when the Jays  begin the regular season in three weeks.

“Friends: I thought it was important to let you know I’m being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Still, I intend to be there opening day, sitting beside @SiddallJoe (studio analyst Joe Siddall) hosting #BlueJays Central,” Campbell wrote. “Hope you’ll join us then.”

The tweet had more than 5,000 likes within an hour of Campbell sharing his diagnosis.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia involves the bone marrow making too many type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. It progresses slowly and treatment typically begins when the disease is considered active. The five-year survival rate in North America is around 83 per cent.

Several of Campbell’s contemporaries in sports media reached out to offer encouraging words.

  • “Best wishes Jamie. You got this.” — Caroline Cameron, Sportsnet colleague
  • “Jamie, you are a fighter and you will beat this. I am one of your many friends who are behind you all the way for this battle. Stay strong and know that you are loved and admired.” — Mark Hebscher, longtime Toronto and Hamilton broadcaster and author
  • “I bet you’ll bring the same enthusiasm for your treatment and battle as you do for your job. Mr. T, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael C. Hall, & Ethan Zohn: All celebs living with and beating CLL. Gonna add @SNETCampbell to that list.” — Michael Landsberg, mental health advocate and longtime TSN host
  • “I hope you’re getting all the best treatment and support Jamie — and yes, see you soon! Staying positive is so important.” — Evanka Osmak, Sportsnet anchor
  • “I know you will kick its ass and I can’t wait to see you covering this exciting Jays team soon.” — Jackie Redmond, NHL Network and NHL on TNT personality
  • “You’re an inspiration. Wishing you the best through this journey.” — Dan Robson, best-selling author
  • “Please join me in wishing @SNETCampbell all the absolute best in taking on this illness. So many people are in your corner!” — Mike Wilner, podcaster and former Sportsnet The FAN 590 host

Campbell was just shy of his 10th birthday when the Blue Jays entered the American League as an expansion team in 1977. On his Twitter account, he has shared photos of MLB players that he took himself as a young teen while attending games at the old Exhibition Stadium, the Jays’ makeshirt original home that was on the same site where BMO Field now stands in Toronto.

After working his day through the industry, he became a Day One hire at Sportsnet in 1998. He has been part of the Blue Jays telecasts full-time since 2005. He was Sportsnet’s play-by-play commentator from ’05-09, then moved to the hosting role.

Baseball’s demographics skew toward older adults and the older-souled. Exactly two years ago Thursday, in the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell put the word out that he would call the parents or grandparents of Blue Jays fans who direct-messaged him with a name, phone number, and best time to call. By his estimate, he made 1,000 calls over the next six weeks, which works out to a rate of about 25 per day.

During the pandemic, Campbell has also leant his time to Conquer COVID-19, a grassroots non-profit supporting organizations in COVID-19 relief effort.

Along with his roles with the Blue Jays, Campbell has also been an Olympic commentator twice. In 2010, he called Canada’s first Olympic gold medal on home soil when Alexandre Bilodeau won the men’s moguls at the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics.

The Blue Jays’ home opener is on April 8 against the Texas Rangers. While the start of the MLB season has been delayed one week by a lockout that lasted 99 days, it will be the first time that the Blue Jays have had a true home opener since 2019.

The ’20 season did not begin until late July and was reduced to 60 games from the usual 162. Last season, COVID-19 safety measures lead to the Jays playing home games in Dunedin and Buffalo before they were cleared to play in Toronto in front of crowds of no more than 15,000 fans.

(Cover image via Twitter/@SNETCampbell.)

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