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Fels coach has baseball team firing on all cylinders

Alyssa Campbell led Fels to the Public League semifinals, the first time the Panthers baseball team went that far. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Sports have always been a huge part of Alyssa Campbell’s life.

Campbell, a health and physical education teacher at Samuel Fels High School, was a two-sport athlete at North Penn when she was in high school. She played basketball, but her true passion was softball.

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That wasn’t new when she was a teenager.

“I think before I was able to walk, I had a bat in one hand and a glove in the other,” Campbell said. “I always loved sports. I loved everything, I played everything. Softball was my true passion, but I loved it all. Baseball and softball were two sports I just always loved to be around. It’s always been that way.”

She arrived at Fels last year as a teacher, and immediately started to see if she could help any of the programs.

She was more than qualified to coach pretty much anything. 

Prior to arriving at Fels, she spent 12 years as a softball coach at Red Land High School. She also had a coaching stint at Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster and coached her travel softball team, the North Penn Eclipse.

She also coached field hockey, lacrosse, even football at Red Land where she coached wide receivers. Plus, as a physical education teacher, she has the fun job of teaching kids how to play virtually every sport there is. 

But when she got to Fels, the school didn’t need any head coaches, at least at first. But then she got some good news.

“They had a coach for everything including softball, which I looked into,” Campbell said. “They don’t have as many coaches in every sport (in the Public League compared to suburban schools), and they didn’t need anyone. When we got closer to spring, our AD said they thought they had enough interest to make enough for a second baseball team, they might have a JV team, they were looking for an assistant and they asked if I wanted to do it.

“I knew how to play baseball, my dad played competitively. I could keep the book before I could write a sentence. I heard there was an opening. I was able to get in there.” 

She jumped right in and had a great time serving as an assistant to George Dufner. 

The team enjoyed a great run, made the playoffs and everyone was looking forward to the 2024 season after a very successful 2023 campaign.

Then she found out Dufner wasn’t coming back and the position was posted.

Not only did she want it, her players wanted her to have the job. She applied, got it and jumped right in.

Apparently she’s a pretty good skipper because she led Fels to an undefeated regular season and a trip to the Public League semifinals where the Panthers ultimately fell to Central. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it was historical.

This marked the first time Fels advanced to the brink of the Public League championship game, and left the players with a great sense of achievement.

They wanted more, but couldn’t be happier with the progress they made the past two seasons, and especially this year.

“We have the entire same team as last year, we only graduated one senior, so I got to know all of them last year, but I also got to know them in class,” Campbell said. “I have them as students. I’ve gotten to know them on and off the field. I grew those relationships as a coach and teacher.

“This year, when the previous head coach told them what was going on, they were really excited. It was a nice reaction to the news. I thought they would be bummed, and they were because they loved him, but when he said I was hired, they were excited. They know me, I know their abilities and we had relationships. They knew what I wanted and I know what they can do.”

Together, they made magic.

Fels isn’t a perennial baseball powerhouse but sure played like it.

It says a lot about a high school team when it has good players and all of them stick together. Fels didn’t lose any of its stars to transfers, and they were ready to compete together.

“They already had that mindset of that they want to compete, win a championship,” Campbell said. “We want to play big teams, Frankford, Central, Masterman. They wanted to and were focused. We ran into some barriers, we lost some guys (to injury) and guys had to become pitchers. We had to pull position players for the mound for some big games. Tacony, Lincoln, some very good teams in our division, And every single time they did great. They went through a lot, we didn’t have our starters every game, but everyone stepped up and filled in the position.”

Campbell was the perfect fit.

And she’s excited about what the future holds for Fels baseball.

“I love them, I love all of them, we have fun, they’re super serious and goof off, so they take it seriously, and have a good time,” she said. “They know when to be serious and dial it back. And they know the limits and the things I expect from them. We set it up, we had a great year, it’s not surprising, but more exciting.

“I believe in them, I pride myself in that I always put them in the best position, I know what they can do, what they can’t do. I trust them, they trust me and it’s worked out.”

And as much as this is nothing new for Campbell, she’s still having the best time.

It makes all those hours she put in as a player, an assistant and head coach worth it.

For her and her parents. 

“Both my parents have been huge, my dad is the big sports influence and my mom is the best,” she said. “I’m an only child, my dad got me right into sports the second I started walking, he put a bat in one hand and a glove in the other. He came to the last two playoff games to watch, he never saw me coach baseball, he’s only seen other sports. That was a proud moment for him. It was really cool, I called him after. 

“We are having so much fun. Next year we will take another step up to play the big boys. We’re excited. We know what we can do. We just have to do it.”

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