Area colleges: Belmont grad puts insurance career on hold to pursue pro baseball

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 10:53pm

The internship ended early for Derek Hamblen. Hopefully Northwestern Mutual understands.

After graduating from Belmont in May and ending his collegiate baseball career earlier this month in an NCAA Regional, Hamblen worked for Northwestern Mutual off Music Row.

But Hamblen, who finished his undergraduate degree in business administration, always had his eye on another career. On Monday, he officially began it. After signing a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Royals, Hamblen headed to the team’s Rookie League affiliate in Burlington, N.C., out of the Appalachian League.

“That has always been a dream,” Hamblen said earlier this month. “I really just think back on these four years — I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Hamblen finished his four years with Belmont as the school leader in hits (290), doubles (71), runs scored (212) and at-bats (932). He also finished in the top 10 with 26 home runs, 11 triples and 139 RBIs.

As a senior, the Plano, Texas, native led the Bruins to their first NCAA Tournament berth. The outfielder was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament MVP and was also named to the All-Regional Tournament team.

“We are very excited Derek is getting this well-deserved opportunity,” Belmont coach David Jarvis said. “We’re just so proud of him for getting this chance to go on and play at the next level, and he sure has earned it after four tremendous years at Belmont.”

Hamblen is the second Bruin to sign a free-agent deal this month. First baseman/designated hitter Nate Woods signed with the Florida Marlins and is currently playing in the Gulf Coast League.

• Amateur qualifier: Middle Tennessee State rising junior Ashley Haggard will compete in this week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Bandon, Ore.

Haggard, a native of Savannah, Tenn., finished fourth at a qualifier last month in Dickson to earn a spot in the event, which began on Tuesday.

Along with Haggard, two other current Blue Raiders will be competing in a national tournament this summer. Stephanie Smith and Natalie Chrisopulos, along with former MTSU standout Morgan Hale, will play in the Hardee’s Collegiate Invitational in August in Pensacola, Fla.

“I think the summer is important for the development of our girls,” MTSU coach Chris Adams said. “It gives them a chance to keep improving and stay on top of their game… It also gives them an opportunity to measure themselves against some of the region’s best golfers.”

• Running on: Lipscomb’s Dani Walker finished 12th in the 5,000-meter run at United States Junior National Championship recently in Eugene, Ore.

Walker, a rising sophomore from Wichita, Kan., ran a personal-best time of 17:42.76 in the event. Tucker Peabody placed 17th in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.80. The rising sophomore from Memphis was disqualified from the 200-meter dash, however, after he stepped on the starting line three times.