August 21, 2011 12:22:00 AM
Kameron Bryan thought it was over.
He attended tryout after tryout and trained and trained to keep the hope alive that someone would give him a chance to play baseball in college.
But after years of practicing and playing the game he loved, Bryan resigned himself to the fact he wasn''t going to get an opportunity, so he planned to enroll at East Mississippi Community College and was ready to take the next step in his life.
Michael Avalon knew of Bryan from his time as an assistant baseball coach at East Central C.C. It wasn''t until Aug. 11, though, that Avalon could act on his knowledge. On that day, Avalon was named the new baseball coach at Mississippi Delta C.C. Shortly after the announcement, Avalon took a phone call from Lee Boyd, his old roommate at the University of West Alabama. Boyd called to congratulate Avalon on getting the job before the conversation turned to Bryan.
Avalon wondered if Bryan was going to play baseball in college. Boyd told his friend that no one had offered his leading hitter and that he was still available.
Three days later, Bryan was in Moorhead working out for Avalon. Little did he know it that he was about to get the chance he had been seeking.
"Lee told me Kameron was his MVP last year and that he was a hard-nosed kid and a strong kid who would do anything you asked him to do," Avalon said. "He said he stepped in and filled a big void for them (at catcher). That was enough for me."
It didn''t take long for Avalon to offer Bryan a chance to walk on to the baseball team at Mississippi Delta. It took even less time for Bryan to accept.
"Last Saturday I didn''t know where I was going to go to school," said Bryan, who moved to Mississippi Delta on Sunday and enrolled in classes Monday. "I am enjoying every minute of it. I have met some good guys and I really enjoy the environment. All of the guys are pretty great. It is going to be hard, but I have got this chance and I don''t need to blow this one."
Bryan attended tryouts at EMCC, Hinds C.C., Itawamba C.C. and West Alabama but didn''t attract any offers. Boyd said part of the problem is that junior colleges in the state recruit to fill needs and many had already filled sports for catcher on their rosters by the summer.
Still, Boyd knew Bryan could play baseball in college. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounds transfer from Neshoba Central in Philadelphia went to school in New Hope until the eighth grade before he moved back before the start of his senior year in high school. He led the team with a .420 batting average and also was one of the top run producers with three home runs and more than 20 RBIs.
"It was surprising to me that no one picked him up," Boyd said. "He had an outstanding year. I knew Kameron could really play college baseball, and I always try to find a place for my players to play, but he almost accepted it the last couple of weeks that he was not going to find a place to play. This just happened to work out, and I couldn''t be happier for him."
Boyd said Bryan''s desire to play baseball in college will help him make a contribution at Mississippi Delta. He said the work Bryan did during and after the season is an example for his current players and all of the younger ones in the area to appreciate.
"When times get tough don''t give up on things because you never know when things might change for you," Boyd said.
Avalon said he knew of Bryan when he was at ECCC but that the school didn''t need another catcher. When he got the job at Mississippi Delta, he realized he needed additional depth at the position, so he reached out and looked for another prospect. He said he was fortunate to find someone with as much potential as Bryan.
"He will compete for playing time as a freshman," Avalon said. "He needs to be a physical catcher and to be someone who can put fear into people. He needs to swing the bat with some authority and to be a physical presence behind plate as far as the pitching staff is concerned."
With three catchers on the roster, Avalon said Bryan also could see playing time at first base, or designated hitter, depending on how he is hitting. He agreed with Boyd that the tenacity Bryan showed in trying to find a place to play baseball in college was a selling point.
"A lot of people passed on him, and for him to keep looking without giving up baseball, looked at him and I told him everything happens for a reason," Avalon said. "Hopefully this is a good thing for us. It definitely says a lot about the person that hey, I''m not going to give up on my dream of playing baseball until I have to."
Bryan admitted to being a little out of shape for his tryout at Mississippi Delta, but he felt he did well enough to make an impression. Avalon agreed and made Bryan''s dream come true.
"I knew from the beginning that it would be kind of tough, but I didn''t think it would come down to this," Bryan said. "I think I have a good chance to get some playing time."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.