KERENS — The Kamp family was busy well into Wednesday night and Thursday morning putting its final touches on the project they started over 20 months and an estimated 16,000 man hours ago.

The John Albert Kamp (JAK) Sports Complex was nearing its debut and co-designer Derek Kamp, a member of the Corsicana Fire Department, was making sure he crossed every T and dotted each I before its inaugural tournament. The new four-field facility named after Derek’s grandfather — located a softball throw east of Kerens High School — was hours away from the Trinity River Blowout high school softball tournament and he and his family were dabbing the last bit of paint in the areas that needed it.

Despite being exhausted and a bit overworked, Derek and the Kamp family were on-hand to watch the sixteen teams compete in the complex they once fathomed two years ago. The smiles on the faces of tournament-goers and the compliments the family was hearing might have been well worth the gallons of sweat and monetary investments placed into the family-built facility.

“We put every screw in, every piece of wire, every piece of insulation,” Derek said. “(My son) has played ball and (Braz Davis) has been to a bunch of parks, so we sort of took a piece here and a piece there and sort of put our own park together. … We like it. We’ve got a lot to add.”

Derek’s father Ray Camp, his brother Lance and his brother-in-law Davis each played a contributing role in their investment. With an idea to bring a fan-friendly athletic complex to the area, the four began building the complex in July 2005. Now, upon its completion, the four are busy counting the close plays at the plate and the sounds of the ball running into the more than 200-foot fence.

Despite the emotions of the complex’s opening weekend, the family recalls the strain it put on the relationships.

“We’ve almost killed each other five or six times,” said Davis, “because every body has

great ideas. When you’re talking about a facility of this magnitude, somebody has got to put their idea on later. Some of these projects took months.”

“There was a lot of tension with the family,” Derek added, “but I’m so glad to see it finally complete. I’m so happy. To see my dad finally get to see it complete. That was special.”

The family was hoping to bring the feel of Metroplex facilities to the small town, and they may have achieved that. Kerens softball players Shelby Bain and Jaycee Colvin had already played three games on the fields and were all smiles about the new facility.

“It’s nice,” Bain said. “It feels like you’d be up at a Dallas tournament.

“(Other teams) said it was probably one of the nicest fields around the area.”

“I didn’t think it was going to be this nice,” Colvin added.

Kerens softball coach Brandy Martin said some of her favorite parts about the facility is the netting used in the backstop. With Derek opting to go with netting instead of the typical chain-linked fence, the facility adds plenty of its own personal touches including a gift shop, hospitality room and concession stands

“The way it’s set up, you can sit here and watch all those games and I like that,” Martin said. “(The players) love it. They like the idea. For the older players who play select ball, it puts them in that mindset.”

Martin along with all the members of the Kerens community saw the Kamp family’s creation begin to take life.

“You don’t know what it’s really going to be like just watching it,” Martin said, “but when we came over here, it’s just unbelievable that they did this all by themselves. I’ve been in a lot of facilities but this is by far one of the best I’ve seen.”

Despite all the compliments the family had been getting, Derek wanted criticism. A pseudo-perfectionist, Derek wants to add things like nets over spectator’s heads to serve as protection from foul balls along with a playground. With time, those things will come, but until then, the family intends on making the most of their unique bond.

“It’s a learning experience but it’s a lot of hard work,” said Deena Davis, Braz’s wife. “This has been a real character-building experience. We’ve learned things about each other that we didn’t know before. We’ve become stronger people individually and as a group.

And I can tell you as a wife, there’s been many a nights where we wish we’d never heard of baseball. ... But I can say this, after two years, we’re all still talking and we’re all pretty much still friends.”

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