Former Triton standout Dalen Thompson goes one-on-one with The Daily Record to discuss his first season with Campbell baseball and the career goals still left to achieve.
BUIES CREEK — After celebrating with his Campbell baseball teammates and fulfilling media obligations, Dalen Thompson honored one more request.
The former Triton standout was joined on the Jim Perry Stadium turf by his younger brother, Kole, as they held this year’s Big South Conference regular-season championship trophy.
“That’s another reason why I came here (Campbell). It’s close to home, I got a lot of support ... My little brother is a seventh-grader and I know he looks up to me. I just try to set a good example for him and try to be a positive role model,” Thompson said following the 12-4 win over Radford Thursday, May 19.
“He walks around his school, and he’s out here and says, ‘That’s my big brother.’ ... It feels good to make him proud, my parents proud and the rest of my family proud.”
Intimate moments like these are what attracted Thompson to make the 10-mile trip to Buies Creek following a standout prep career for the Hawks.
The same family and friends who saw him boast a career .346 batting average and .469 on-base percentage as a reliable infielder for Triton, have an opportunity to watch him perform at college baseball’s highest level.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. Since I was little, I told my dad, ‘I want to play (Division) I baseball,’” Thompson said.
“Sometimes I come out here to the field, with the nice facilities, and I’m like ‘wow.’ ... And on the road playing these big time schools, it’s like I always wanted this. And I just try to soak all of it in and just make the best of it, compete and give it all I got.”
Very few have questioned whether the first-year Campbell player has given his all this spring.
Thompson left an early imprint, starting 10 games for the Camels, mostly as an outfielder.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy ... to start right away. But I got my opportunities and made the best of them,” he said.
“I had a really good fall, so I knew from my exit meeting, Coach (Justin Haire) told me that I could be an instant impact on this team.”
Acknowledging how much faster the college game is compared to high school, Thompson notes how important his daily mental approach is to success.
In the late-February series against nationally-ranked Maryland, he had four total hits and two doubles.
The hot start was briefly derailed, however, as a wrist injury forced Thompson out of the lineup.
But the setback turned into a positive as he became one of the dugouts’ most lively personalities while taking time to learn from talented veterans.
“I just think sitting back watching older guys, listening as much as I can and soaking up all the knowledge, it’s just helping me become smarter about the game,” he said.
The natural middle infielder specifically pointed to the example of Campbell shortstop Zach Neto, a Major League Baseball prospect who recently earned his second straight Big South Player of the Year honor.
“I got two potential first-round (draft picks) on my team ... and (Neto) plays my position, too,” Thompson said. “So it’s good learning from him each and every day, and just seeing how he carries himself.”
Haire spoke to how unfortunate the wrist injury was, but is encouraged by Thompson’s maturity. The Camels manager praised the budding newcomer’s practice habits and his ability to find a new role, with appearances in 20-plus games this season.
“He’s gonna be a really special player for us,” Haire said.
“I know we’ve got a shortstop right now that’s pretty special. I’m not gonna say that Dalen is gonna be that guy, but I’m not gonna say he’s not. He’s certainly capable. ... We’re glad he’s here and look forward to him continuing to have a big role as we go through his career here.”
In the immediate term, Thompson is longing to hold one more Big South championship trophy as top-seeded Campbell competes in High Point this weekend for the league’s tournament title.
With his Harnett County supporters along for the ride, he also has his sights set on becoming “that guy” in the near future.
“Later in life, I want to be a big leaguer. That’s my end goal,” Thompson said. “I know I got to work for it, that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.