November 6, 2014 at 1:51 p.m.
Overall, the teams had a 268-154 record. Despite all of Collins’ success as a head coach, his teams never made it to the state tournament, falling just short several times.
But, Collins, who was inducted into the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 25, is okay with that.
“When you come right down to it,” said Collins. “What is the state tourney? It’s three more games at the end of the season. What’s more important to me is that our teams played the game the right way. It was never about the wins and losses. It was all about the relationships and experiences with teammates. That’s what people remember going forward. Nobody remembers the record.”
Among other inductees in the 2014 MHSBCA Hall of Fame class are Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, and local high school coaches from St. John’s, Staples Motley, St. Paul Humboldt, Centennial, New Ulm and Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s.
Over 90 players went on to play college baseball during Collin’s tenure, including five players in Division 1: Steve Kedrowski, Army (West Point); John Kent, Northern Iowa; Tim Swenson, Miami (Florida); Danny Reed, Northern Illinois; and, most recently, Mark Sontag, South Dakota State. Sontag graduated just last year and is beginning his freshman year at South Dakota State.
After graduating from St. Cloud State in 1983, Collins spent his first few years as a science teacher at Sleepy Eye, MN where he also coached under legendary high school baseball coach Pete Boelter. Collins came to Chisago Lakes in the late 80’s and became head baseball coach in 1990. He was told by community members that he wouldn’t be able to do anything with that group of players.
But Collins proved them wrong. He revived the American Legion and VFW baseball programs. The high school team won just three games in Collins’ first year, but the win totals increased quickly after. And Collins, along with a dedicated group of supporters, set about building a new high school baseball field. A beautiful field, complete with lights, was used for the first time in the 1995 season.
And then Collins decided to step away for a few years. “My daughter Abby and my son Quinn were little. My son Kyle, who was seven or eight, asked me ‘will you be coaching my team or your other boys?’” I wanted to be a better dad, so I stepped back and took a few years off to spend time with my kids.”
Collins didn’t step away from the baseball program completely, coaching the middle school team (which has much less of a time commitment) for a few years.
Then Drew Aliperto resigned as baseball coach after the 2000 season. Collins said “Athletic director Joe Thimm came to me and asked me if I would consider being the head coach again. I agreed, with the stipulation that Jay Brown be my assistant. Joe was concerned because he thought Jay, being a substitute teacher at the time, would leave once he got a teaching opportunity. But Joe agreed and Jay and I have coached together for 15 years. We have a magical relationship. We have never had an argument, even though he’s a city boy and I’m a country bumpkin. Baseball is our common denominator. He does what he likes to do and I do what I like to do. He’s easygoing and a heck of a baseball guy.”
And while Collins has stepped away from his head coaching duties, he will continue as an assistant to Brown, who was named the head coach after Collins stepped down. Collins said, laughing “Now Jay can deal with all of the administrative stuff.” Collins had the pleasure of coaching both of his sons, Kyle and Quinn, in their high school baseball careers.
And while Collins loves baseball, he put sports and school in proper perspective. “I’ve always seen myself as a science teacher who happens to coach baseball,” he said.