The past six months have been a whirlwind for Springfield native Cam Hamsley.
He began 2020 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Roane State Community College baseball team. One week before the spring season began, he was thrust into the interim head coach role when Zack Sterner departed for a job on the Tennessee Wesleyan staff.
After a mad scramble to be ready for what turned out to be a 22-game season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, Hamsley’s interim tag has been removed. The 27-year-old is officially the youngest head baseball coach in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association.
“It’s crazy to see what the Lord can do,” he said. “I’ve been getting all these congratulation texts, and that’s great. But for me, the work is just beginning.”
Roane State Athletics Director Randy Nesbit pointed to Hamsley’s energy as the trait that makes him a fit for coaching and recruiting players and teaching college success courses to freshman students.
“Coach Hamsley is full of enthusiasm as he takes on the task of continuing our program’s attempt to advance up in the TCCAA,” Nesbit said in a release. “He has always been described by coaches he has worked under as a ‘student of the game.’ He has excellent organizational skills, is a very persevering worker and will take those attributes both onto the field and into the classroom as an instructor in our humanities department.”
The player becomes a coach
Hamsley’s ascent through the coaching ranks came quickly but not easily. After he graduated from Pope John Paul II High School in 2011, Hamsley underwent Tommy John surgery, effectively ending his playing days and starting his coaching career.
He briefly served as the White House Heritage Middle School head coach and Springfield High School assistant coach while in college at Austin Peay from 2011-14. Then Hamsley worked at JPII for three seasons, helping his alma mater to a pair of DII state championship appearances while coaching players like Ben Brooks (Memphis), Mason Hickman (Vanderbilt) and Jake Rucker (Tennessee) who would go on to be college standouts.
Those roles came with limited stipends, so Hamsley had to work other jobs. He landed at Old Hickory Bat Company, a Goodlettsville-based operation that manufactures bats for high school, college and professional players.
Hamsley initially worked in production but was later moved to sales, where his outgoing personality was a better fit.
“They still joke with me all the time and are like, ‘Yeah, we just moved you to a sales/tour guide position because you love talking, but since you talked so much, you messed up a lot of the bats,’” he said.
Hamsley thought he was on track to eventually earn a high school head coaching job. He was right about the position, just not the level.
“Somewhere along the line, someone was like, ‘You would be really great at coaching college baseball because you have such good energy and love talking to people. You could recruit well,’” Hamsley said. “In my mind, I didn’t think it was for me. But the Lord had different plans.”
Hamsley began applying for college jobs in various states ahead of the 2017 season. Fortunately, he was offered a volunteer assistant position at Roane State that allowed him to stay relatively close to home. He married Rosemary Gibson, a former Springfield Homecoming Queen, and the couple moved to East Tennessee.
Taking the reins
Indeed.com was a regular stop for Hamsley during his volunteer stint at Roane State. He worked a sales job for one month and was never paid, only to realize he was being scammed.
“I found out (the owner) was a scammer guy,” Hamsley said with a laugh. “He had been arrested for some of that stuff. (I had to) grind through that.”
He later caught on with a more reputable local sporting goods store but was laid off when the company hit a budget crunch. Finally, after attaining a master’s degree through Union University, Hamsley was able to teach college success courses at Roane State and begin earning regular paychecks.
None of that deterred him, though. His patience paid off in a big way before the 2020 season.
Hamsley’s background as the recruiting coordinator made him a logical choice to succeed Sterner. He already had relationships with the Roane State players because he had coached them and, in many cases, convinced them to come to Harriman in the first place.
“In his assistant coach role with us he has done a very good job recruiting and all the players related to him very well,” Nesbit said in a January statement when Hamsley was tabbed as interim head coach.
Hamsley has traveled from Mississippi to West Virginia looking for players. But thanks to the Tennessee Promise Scholarship and the deep in-state talent pool, his focus is on the local baseball scene.
“I want to go and get the absolute best players in Tennessee that I can,” he said. “We’re an in-state school, and I want to invest in these talented athletes we have here.”
The Roane State roster includes two former Robertson County standouts in Joey Drury (East Robertson) and Trey Semore (Greenbrier). Both played limited roles as the Raiders went 8-14 before the season was stopped and eventually canceled in March.
Hamsley’s squad had positive takeaways from their brief, six-game conference slate. The Raider pitching staff led the TCCAA in strikeouts with 56 and the defense produced a conference-best .981 fielding percentage.
There were also some downs. Roane State lost its first six games and three of its final four – the kind of struggles to be expected after a sudden coaching change.
“I’m not going to fool you, there were a lot of times where I was adjusting and the players were adjusting,” Hamsley said. “Sometimes it felt like we were running around with our pants on fire. But at the same time, it was a (good) transition.”
Wins, signees and model citizens
Hamsley is hopeful about what 2021 could bring. He said it will be “exciting to put a full fall and spring together,” which will afford him time to settle into his new role.
His dreams for Roane State are lofty. He wants to win a conference championship and send dozens of players to Division I schools and even more to Division II and NAIA programs. More importantly, Hamsley is focused on helping his players become better men.
“I want to win a ton of games, but with that, I hope I’m growing guys who can be great husbands, great fathers, great servants in their community and great employees for where they go to work,” he said.
Hamsley’s goals for himself are just as ambitious. With how quickly he became a college head coach, why wouldn’t they be?
“I’m really focused on where I’m at right now,” he said. “But when people ask me about my end goal, I always say I want to be the head coach at Vanderbilt. They think that’s funny, and I probably should too because whoever takes over after Tim Corbin is going to have quite a (high) pedestal to live up to.”