WAREHAM – Seventeen games into the season, Isaac Collins was hitting .211 as a scuffling temporary player trying to make his mark in the Cape League.
Collins, a middle infielder from Maple Grove, Minn. and a rising junior at the Creighton University, was just 4-for-19 at the plate and had only cracked the Gatemen starting lineup four times in 17 games.
On June 30, Collins got his chance to make a statement.
Penciled in at the bottom of the Gatemen lineup read “9 – COLLINS – 9”. The first nine next to Collins’ name represented his spot in the batting order. The second? That would be for his position for the night: right field.
Between Sahid Valenzuela (a Cape League All-Star), Bryson Stott (NCAA leader in doubles this season) and Ryan Kreidler (UCLA’s shortstop), the middle infield was pretty solidified for the Gatemen early in the season.
However, there a spot was up for grabs in the outfield. Jeremy Ydens and Bryant Packard, Wareham’s other two outfielders, were having stellar summers, but the Gatemen had failed to get production from the third outfield spot. Wareham’s next best outfielder was hitting just .140 as June came to a close.
Enter Isaac Collins.
“At first it was a little bit different, but I accepted it,” Collins said upon becoming an outfielder. “It’s my role on the team as a temp player. I wanted to do anything to get on the field and in the lineup. If that meant playing the outfield, that’s what it was.”
In a 17-4 win over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Collins had his best offensive game to date going 2-4 with two runs scored, a walk, and a double.
The next night, Collins found himself back in the lineup moved one spot up to the eight-hole and back in right field. Despite going 0-for-3 that night, he was in the starting nine five of the next six games.
Over that stretch, Collins went 6-for-17 (.353 average) and was certainly looking more comfortable at the plate. His average, albeit a limited sample size, was up to .279 in 43 total at-bats.
“Playing the outfield, you get a little bit of a mental break. In the infield, you are really locked in mentally each and every pitch,” Collins said. “I am not saying in the outfield I am not, but it is a good little break in between at bats.”
Then on July 12, Collins was name was nowhere to be found down at the bottom of the lineup card. Instead, it was at the top. Collins was leading off.
In his first game as the new Gatemen leadoff hitter, Collins had himself a picture-perfect night.
Collins got on base a season-high four times in a 9-2 win over the Chatham Anglers. He went 3-5 on the night with a walk, two RBIs, and a stolen base.
As if his solid night at the plate wasn’t enough, Collins made his first web gem in the outfield robbing Jake Taylor of a base hit on a ball that looked ticket to be a single, if not a double.
Collins lays out in right field to rob Chatham's Jake Taylor of a base hit on July 12 (Photo by Caroline O'Connor).
“At first, it was a learning experience, but I am getting a lot more comfortable out there,” Collins said.
“The reads off the bat are tough. Playing in right field, a corner outfield, the reads on balls slice away from you or cut into the gap rather than center field where you can read it really well. So that’s been the hardest thing, being able to read balls.”
From there out, that’s how the top of the lineup card would read “1 – Collins – 9”.
In his 16 games since taking over the leadoff spot, Collins is hitting .338 (23-for-68) and has driven in nine runs while scoring 14 of them. On the whole, since moving to the outfield, Collins is hitting .336 (31-for-92). He is getting on base at a .401 clip in 24 games as an outfielder, as his early struggles of the Cape League now seem like an afterthought.
“First off, just making a team out here, being in the Cape League and being here all summer is a huge accomplishment for me,” Collins said. “Not only making the team, but being an everyday starter and having some success is something I am really proud of.”
“I feel like I’ve gotten into a good rhythm this summer being able to play every day and keep the same mentality at the plate.”
Perhaps the thing Collins should be most proud of is the number two. Since his move to the outfield, Collins has just committed two errors and has made a bevy of outstanding defensive plays, including two yesterday.
In the third inning against Cotuit, the inning began with Collins sprinting in and making a diving catch to rob a leadoff base hit.
Two batters later, Collins ended the inning when he threw a strike from the fence in right field all the way into second base on the fly to cutdown a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.
A few days earlier in Orleans (as seen below), Collins also made a difficult play that made the natural infielder look like a Gold Glove outfielder who had played the position for years.
In the first inning with runners on first and second, a fly ball was hit to deep right field and was slicing away from Collins. Without hesitation, Collins hopped on his horse and was able to run it down with ease and fired the ball back into the infield.
Isaac Collins makes a difficult catch in the first inning on Sunday versus Orleans.
“The easiest thing [about outfield] is that it’s just catching fly balls really. If you over complicate it, it gets hard,” Collins said. “Being able to play both I’d say infield is a little bit more tough and harder.”
On a nightly basis, Collins makes the easy plays as well as making the difficult plays look routine. To get to this point, Collins acknowledged numerous people who have helped to give him the tricks of the trade.
“It’s a combination of a lot of people,” Collins said as it relates to those who have helped his outfield transition. “It’s Skyler Hunter, Jeremy Ydens, Mike Mobbs, you know all those guys. They’re giving me little tips each day. It’s a learning experience and every day I learn something new.”
One in particular, Skyler Hunter, has done more than just give Collins little tips on how to play the outfield.
“My outfield glove is actually Skyler Hunter’s glove. It’s not mine. I asked him if he had an extra glove, or if any of the outfielders, had an extra glove that I could borrow. Skyler said he had one for me. So, I have been using his all summer and at the end of summer I am going to give that back to him.”
Collins' infield glove (left) is 11.5-inches while his borrowed outfield glove (right) is 12.75-inches (Photo by Ian Vescera).
And when he gives that glove back, Collins will prepare for his junior season back in the role he loves most: as a middle infielder.
“Yeah, I definitely prefer to play the infield, but if I have to play the outfield I am more than willing to do it. It definitely helps a lot when you look at the draft,” Collins said about his ability to play both positions.
“But you know, I am an infielder and hopefully I can play at the next level in the infield, but if the opportunity does arise for me to be in the outfield, I can be an outfielder as well.”