He saw Collins’ power and balance, noticed how well he centered the ball, and from then on he expected the sophomore from Troy University to have a memorable summer at the plate.
But not even Alison could have predicted what Collins has done so far.
Collins has hit 13 home runs this season to lead the New England Collegiate Baseball League and set a Muskrat record — and Laconia still has 13 games left on the schedule. He also leads the league with a .424 batting average and has a team-high 23 RBIs.
But teammate Austin Sullivan — who has known Collins for 10 years and played with him in junior college — said Collins always wants to do better. He’s the kind of player who could hit home runs in his first three at-bats and still be frustrated with a strikeout in his fourth.
“Off the field, he’s pretty much the same way,” Sullivan said. “We go fishing a lot and if I beat him, which I usually do, he always get mad.”
Alison echoed Sullivan’s description, adding that Collins is “a guy that hates to fail at any given at bat.” He takes each at bat personally, Alison said, which is the mark of a great competitor.
“He’s a quality hitter,” Alison said. “He’s as tough of an out as I’ve seen in this league. He’s been as good of a hitter as I’ve seen here in three summers.”
Collins can’t remember a time when baseball wasn’t a huge part of his life — he’s had a bat in his hands from the time he was fiveyears old, he said — and he wants to keep it that way.
His goal is to play Major League Baseball and he said he’ll keep playing until somebody tells him he can’t. After that, he’d like to coach. His strong performance this summer should be earning him plenty of attention, taking him one step closer to his dream of playing professional baseball.
“It feels good to come out here and have a good summer because I’m putting my name on the map for the next level and the MLB draft,” Collins said. “It feels good to do that with a wood bat.”
And while Collins has been leading the league at the plate, he’s also been working on his swing.
His hitting coach at Troy told him that when he swings naturally, he hits the ball the other way. Collins entered the summer with the goal to do exactly that. The righty has done well so far, knocking the majority of his home runs over the centerfield or right field fence.
“I think he’s shown he’s consistent day in and day out,” Alison said. “I think he’s probably got 100 at bats or more and he’s still doing it. Good players keep getting better and he’s done that. But he came in as a pretty good hitter so I don’t think it’s anything magic that’s happened since he’s been here.”
For the Muskrats — a team with a 10-19 record coming off a seven-game losing streak — Collins has been a bright spot and a leader.
A self-described fiery and aggressive player, he admits he doesn’t stay quiet on the field often. But that’s a trait Sullivan said makes his teammate a quality leader.
“He’s a real vocal guy,” Sullivan said. “Especially when I’m out there pitching. If I make a bad pitch or something, he’ll always talk me down, which is definitely a quality you need in a leader.”
With the Muskrats struggling, Collins understands the importance of staying focused and moving forward. He’s kept the same mindset for every game and his teammates have noticed.
“It’s a big help,” Sullivan said. “All the guys see how hard he works and his approach at the plate. Trying to establish that with some of our other hitters will hopefully lead to some wins.”
As the Muskrats enter the season’s final games, Collins knows ending the summer like he started it all comes down to keeping that consistency.
“Don’t get lazy coming down on the last stretch,” he said. “You can’t get lazy late, which is what a lot of people do. They start getting sore and stuff like that. You have to stay in the same grind you’ve been doing the whole season and hope it continues.”