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Putting up big numbers nothing new for RBI machine Collins

When runners are on base, Rusty Collins’ eyes light up.
The Lion senior third baseman was ranked fourth in the area with 30 RBIs entering the week, and this isn’t even the biggest statistical season of his career. Rusty made the varsity jump as a freshman and was one of those young guys fortunate to enjoy instant success.
In his initial Lion season, Collins batted a very respectable .378. Rusty injured his knee during football season as a sophomore and then suffered a hamstring injury early in baseball season that caused him to miss four weeks, which he believed to be a result of overcompensation from the knee injury.
In spite of the adversity, Collins came up huge in his shortened season by batting .348 with five homers and 40 RBIs. His junior season saw those offensive numbers fall, something that happened across the board for the Lions as they faced strong pitching on a nightly basis in a loaded 15-4A. Through those first three seasons, Collins garnered Co-Newcomer of the Year, First-Team Infield and Second-Team Infield district honors, respectively.
Collins is certainly legging out the home stretch of his Lion career, as he ranks high on the team in a laundry list of offensive categories as a senior to help Ennis reach the playoffs. Beyond his team-leading 30 RBIs, Rusty is also first with 22 walks, a .526 on-base percentage and just seven strikeouts.
Collins ranks second among the Lions with three homers, a .658 slugging percentage and a .484 average with runners in scoring position. As if that wasn’t enough, the veteran of the diamond ranks third with a .384 batting average, nine doubles, 27 runs scored and six stolen bases.
Back when he was just four years old, Collins remembers hanging out with the older kids at the local ballpark in his native Bristol. He thinks being the youngster among the group paid dividends when it came time for high school ball.
“Anytime you play up in competition, you’ll make yourself better and it definitely helped playing ball with the older kids when I was little,” he said.
In seventh and eighth grade, Rusty laid much of his baseball foundation while playing for his fall ball team – the Palmer Bulldogs, who played their home games at Palmer High School.
“My coach was [Bristol’s] Tim Sparkman; his son was a year older than me and we played together on the Bulldogs,” Collins said.
“[Palmer head coach] Jay Johnson was also a coach on the team and I learned a lot from them.”
During Rusty’s first couple of varsity seasons, he essentially only played first base. He played some third base last year before taking over the position for good this season. Rusty played catcher in his younger days prior to the aforementioned knee injury.
“[Former third baseman Jeremy] Pullin helped me out on some fielding techniques last year, which made a big difference,” he said.
“Hopefully playing a few different positions will help me out in the long run by being more versatile for college ball.”
Make no mistake, however, Collins will be more valuable at the next level for what he can do with the bat. He’s proven to be the master of the big stat line during his career.
“When I’m zoned in, I try to be aggressive early in the count and hit my pitch,” Collins said.
“I’ll take a walk if necessary to try to help the team.”
In a non-district game against Waxahachie in 2006, Rusty blasted a pair of grand slams to lead the Lions in victory.
“It was my third game back from my hamstring injury and I hadn’t been doing too well,” he said.
“You always want to step up against those guys. Rounding third after the second [homer] it finally sunk in, but I had to get the save on the mound so I couldn’t lose focus. I got to bat behind [Justin] Howard as a sophomore, so I saw a lot of good pitches with his presence in the lineup.”
In game two of a playoff series against South Oak Cliff that year, Collins hit a pair of homers and finished with eight RBIs. Crediting his teammates at the top of the order for doing a great job of getting on base, Rusty drilled a line-drive homer in his first at bat and hit a towering shot the next time up.
In a 21-6 tournament victory over Seagoville this season, Rusty piled up the production once again with a homer, two doubles, a single and eight RBIs.
“I entered the Mesquite Tournament batting .058 and came out batting around .400,” Collins said.
“I just went in wanting to hit the ball hard. Coach [Virgil] Crow really helped me out the week prior to that game.”
Perhaps Rusty’s biggest homer came this year against Mesquite, when he drilled a line shot down the left-field line at the Ballpark in Arlington. While Ennis won the ’07 meeting and lost a big lead in the rematch, nobody could take away from Collins’ magic moment.
“We didn’t pull out the win this year, but we had a lot of fun playing,” Collins said.
“It was a 3-0 count and the pitcher just threw one in there for me; it’s something to tell the grandkids about one day.”
Considering Collins’ favorite major league team is the Texas Rangers and his favorite player is Michael Young, it must’ve been extra special to go deep in the Rangers’ backyard.
If it’s not obvious by this point that Rusty loves the game of baseball, the senior doesn’t just have a good time on game night.
“Practice is probably the biggest part of high school baseball and if you can’t enjoy it, you probably won’t make yourself better,” he said.
An amateur athlete is only as good as his support system, an area where Collins is well taken care of. He appreciates what Lion coaches Kevin Kalinec and Virgil Crow have done for him, as well as the essential family backing Rusty has enjoyed.
“There’s been a lot, but the biggest thing Coach K has done for me over the years is helping my mental approach at the plate,” Collins said.
“I regret only having one year with Coach Crow; I learned a lot from him too and it would’ve been fun to have him around all four years. My mom [Renee Davis] and my dad [Jim Collins] were both very involved from the time I started playing baseball and my grandparents [Roland and Marion Jones] never miss a game. It was also great playing ball with my sister [Carly Collins] growing up.”
Rusty plans to study engineering after graduation, but hopes to play some junior college baseball while he’s at it and see where that leads. While he’s been putting up numbers with Lion baseball for a long time, Collins’ powerful swing may be in demand for many more years to come.

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Posted by on Apr 23 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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