Camdenton's baseball program has been steadily building itself from the ground up, with a number of players going on to play college ball, including Junior Mustain, who now pitches for the University of Kansas, Kyle Simpson, a solid batter for the Missouri Western State Griffons, along with Camdenton's senior Cory Simpson, who has just agreed to play for Longview next year.
Add another name to that list of Camdenton ballers: junior Tyler Cunningham.
That's right, folks.
The 6'1" stud outfielder of the Camdenton Lakers verbally committed to play for the Missouri State Bears earlier this year, joining the ranks of Lakers to play college baseball.
"It felt right," Cunningham said. "It's one of the best baseball programs in the Midwest, and it's close to home, so my parents and grandparents can come watch me. What set it apart for me was their philosophy; it matched what I wanted to do as a hitter."
The junior outfielder's talents on the field were noticed by the Lakers in his freshman year, when Cunningham saw some time at the varsity level.
In his sophomore season, as part of an ailing Laker squad, Cunningham stepped up his game, earning him the honors of being name Second Team All-Ozark Conference.
Cunningham is an excellent outfielder, but can play other positions if needed. He says he prefers playing centerfield the most, though.
He also plays in summer leagues, playing for the Midwest Nationals.
"It's a different experience; it's fun, but tough at the same time," Cunningham said. "You're facing all of the top-notch competition, so it's definitely a cool experience."
Committing to a college as a junior is not unheard of, and is a common place practice among a number of universities across the U.S. It's an honor for the players to know that they are wanted at that level already, but it brings its own risks, the chief concern being the player's desire to continue playing at the same level, having reached their goal early on.
Camdenton, however, has nothing to worry about. Cunningham is adamant about finishing out his career at Camdenton, taking it one game at a time and worrying about college when the time arrives.
"It's a blessing, to be given that opportunity to play baseball," Tyler said. "I've wanted to play Division I baseball since I can remember, and that has been my goal. I'm looking forward to it, but right now, I'm looking forward to this season. We have a talented group of guys returning, and we're looking forward to this snow leaving and getting back to playing. I think that we, as a team, know our strengths and weaknesses, and that allows for us to let loose and have fun together."
The reason for this is his loyalty to his team and school. Tyler has played with these same kids for over a decade, and credits his teammates and coaches for helping him grow into the player he has become.
Page 2 of 2 - "Getting the chance to play with the older guys really impacted my life," Cunningham said. "They led me in the right direction. Playing in the summer really boosted my confidence and I was able to just have fun and play."
According to his father, Daryl Cunningham, Tyler has been playing since the age of three.
"We feel blessed," Daryl said. "Tyler, ever since a young age, has been determined to play baseball, and now has the opportunity to do that. They say it takes a village, and it literally does. We feel totally blessed to be in this situation."
Over the years, Tyler has spent time honing his skills, which has developed into a strong presence at bat. When asked about what goes through his head when at bat, Cunningham's answer was short, sweet and to the point.
"Knowing that I've put the work in, when I get to the plate, I just let my instincts take over," Cunningham said. "When I see the ball, I hit the ball."
His simple process speaks exactly to how he plays: one pitch at a time.