Camdenton middle schooler plays among the country's best in national baseball event

Camdenton seventh grader Kam Durnin took his shot.

The young baseball player out of Linn Creek recently had the opportunity to find out what he was made of after participating in the USA Baseball National Team Invitation Series Event (NTIS) in Cary, N.C., from August 9 to the 13. The ultimate goal was to be selected for the United States U13 National Team and over the course of those five days, Durnin played alongside some of the best players in the country at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. He did not quite make the cut, but it was something he will not soon forget.

“It was a great experience and a good measuring stick to see what is out there other than just Missouri or Camdenton in general,” Durnin stated. “I learned just how hard you have to work to get to that level and how much you have to practice every day.”

The seventh grader’s journey began when he attended a tryout for the Midwest region team at the University of Oklahoma in Norman on July 17. There are 16 different regions around the country and to have that opportunity, he sent in a video showing his 40-yard dash time, arm speed and exit velocity, which is the speed of the ball coming off a bat. A group of about 40 players in his age group from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma were offered the chance to try out with the hopes of making a 12 to 15-man roster to represent the Midwest in North Carolina.

After spending about nine hours on the diamond, Durnin was among those selected and moved on to a level he had never experienced before. It was a significant milestone for the seventh grader, who is the son of Camdenton High School Baseball Coach Bryce Durnin, and it was fueled by his love for the game that began with playing a simple game of catch.

“My dad played baseball when he was young and when I was young he’d always throw a ball around with me,” Kam recalled. “I guess I just happened to love it and never thought anything twice about it.”

Thankfully, his dad did not think anything twice about the trip to Norman either as they almost did not make the drive to begin with. Kam had just wrapped up a baseball tournament in St. Louis around 8 p.m., and the tryout was the following morning at 8 a.m., eight hours and 515 miles away. The thought was to just give it a shot the next year, but Kam had other plans in mind.

“He convinces me that this is something he wants to do so I make the drive and we get to Norman at 5 a.m. I pull in to the parking lot, fall asleep for about an hour and I had to roll him out there,” Bryce recalled with a smile.

But the all-nighter was a great way to bond and grandpa went along for the ride too. Once the day wrapped up, the trio made the drive back and arrived at their destination around 2 in the morning.

“I paid for it for about a week, but it was one of those events where you just love watching him play,” the dad said. “There were fun times of that trip, but that one kind of hurt. We got wise and flew to North Carolina.”

During the first day in North Carolina, 60-yard dash times were recorded and kids from across the country had the chance to get a round of batting practice in and practice at their positions. Kam went to work with the shortstops. Then, over the next four days everyone got to play ball. All 16 regional teams from across the country got to face each other, wearing the letters ‘USA’ across their chest.

“It was super cool to support the USA and how they play baseball,” Kam said of getting to wear the U.S. jersey. “It was also cool just to show them what Missouri has got.”

After that event, which featured about 300 players from across the nation, a total of 60 were selected for a private camp. Among those 60, 12 will get the opportunity to join others selected from previous events and they will compete for a spot on the national team roster.

Kam’s road may have ended after North Carolina, but Bryce was thankful to be able to provide him that opportunity and let him grow from it. While he is used to coaching up the Lakers, the coach took a step back from his usual coaching duties and just enjoyed watching his son play. Ultimately, the path Kam takes in the sport of baseball will be up to the seventh grader himself.

“I don’t want to be the dad that tells him he can’t ever do anything so all I can do is let him lead the way, get him out there in front of it and let him decide what he wants to do,” Bryce said of his son’s future plans. “He can do about five things. He can quit, he can blame coaches, he can make excuses, he can complain or he can just try and get better. All I can do is just keep encouraging him, keep believing in him and let him make that decision on his own… I can just give him some feedback without me really saying a word other than I love watching him play.”

The experience also let Kam see what kind of talent was out there and what he needs to do to get better. According to Bryce, there were kids in his age group that were throwing at speeds in the low to mid 80s.

“I just like the fact that he is able to go out on what I call a field trip and just see what ‘good’ really is,” the coach noted. “He has basically increased his definition and his definition of ‘good’ in terms of baseball just becomes more complete and more thorough.”

Time will soon tell how Kam responds to that new definition and how determined he is to put in the work to meet it. If an all-night road trip to Oklahoma is any indication, he is certainly off to a good start.