With Drake playing over the loudspeakers, heads turn as John Collins ’23.5 approaches the plate sporting a pair of neon pink cleats. Off to a fast start this spring, the catcher on men's baseball leads the NESCAC with six home runs on the season. He also sits first on the team in runs (14) and hits (18) on a .340 batting average.
“What makes him special is his power,” said Sammy Smith ’24, a teammate of Collins. “Balls sound different off his bat and [he] has hit some of the farthest home runs I’ve ever seen.”
Collins is a linchpin on the field for men’s baseball, but his contribution to the team culture is equally as important. Collins prioritizes the fun of the game and enjoys every second on the field, whether that’s by making his teammates laugh in the dugout, sharing in the excitement of the little things or chasing school records. Motivated by his love for the game, Collins’ attitude lifts his teammates up.
Smith commented on his admiration for Collins as a teammate, discussing his ability to stay level headed and find ways to make the team better. According to Collins, his secret to success lies in his ability to stay relaxed and play baseball like he’s a kid.
After an up-and-down performance over spring break in Florida, when the team went 3–5, the Panthers have since found their rhythm. Collins’ hitting success has been key in the past few weeks, propelling the team to wins over RPI, Hamilton, Castleton, Union and Colby.
Looking forward, the Panthers have their sights set on securing a NESCAC championship. The last time Middlebury won the championship was in 2006, but Collins expressed nothing but confidence in this group’s ability to perform as a young, talented team. He hopes to use all of the lessons they’ve learned so far this season to push for the NESCAC title.
With the postseason on the horizon, Collins said he “feels really good about [the team’s] preparation and what [they’ve] learned so far; at this point it’s just about trusting it.” The team is also on pace to achieve its goal of beating the school record for home runs in a single season (the team currently has 27, chasing a school record of 37 set in 1998).
Up next, Collins and the Panthers take on Williams in a three-game home series at Forbes Field. The team plays on Friday at 4 p.m. and then at 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.