by MICHAEL COLLINS
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
That sentiment above was proclaimed by Rogers Hornsby, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. That same statement could have easily been heard out the mouths of many in Smith County, including my Dad, Harold “Slick” Collins. Although many people are happy with the products of Spring like the warm sun finally poking thru the grey cloud cover, or finally getting to sleep with your windows open, many folks also look forward to the spring for baseball!
As soon as it begins to warm, activity picks up at all the ballparks around Smith County. Every day the weather permits you will see moms and dads piling out of their vehicles with their children and bags of ball stuff. From Crump-Paris to the City Park, Spring means baseball in Smith County. And Smith County has all sorts of leagues available to boys and girls of all ages. For boys and girls ages 4 to 6 years old, Smith County T-Ball is available. For the slightly older, Smith County Coach Pitch is an option for boys and girls 6 to 8years old. For girls 8 to 16 years old interested in fastpitch softball, Smith County Softball has two leagues, “Little Girls” and “Big Girls”. Smith County Minor League eases youngsters ages 7 to 10 years old into “real” baseball with part of the year using a pitching machine and the rest of the year kids actually pitching. Children ages 10 to 12 are eligible to play Little League. Children ages 13 to 16 years old are able to continue playing baseball in the Smith County Senior League. Also in Smith County there are High School and Middle School baseball and softball teams. Do you get it now? Smith County loves them some baseball!
Baseball and softball are huge parts of children’s lives in Smith County just as it is in surrounding counties. These sports play a vital role in the development of children which translates directly to the wellbeing of our towns. Baseball provides the means for many children and parents to experience for the first time working together as a team, learning to win as well as learning to deal with losing, differences in abilities in children, and accountability to a universal set of rules. Along with the physical and mental abilities that are exercised when children participate, baseball also is important to the social development of children.
Baseball played a huge part in my life. It was my first experience with organized sports and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me. I first played baseball as a 7 year old in Houston, TX. I have been a lifelong resident of Carthage but my family moved to Houston so my mother, Cindy Collins, could undergo cancer treatments at M.D. Anderson Hospital. I had moved away from all my friends and the experience of being on a team quickly provided new friends. After I returned to Smith County I played in Minor League, then Little League, then Babe Ruth and High School Baseball. My Dad, Slick Collins, coached me every step of the way except for High School. Those experiences I hold dear to my heart until this day. I have so many friends that tell me how much they respect my Dad for coaching them as a child and how much fun they had on his teams.
This year will make the 33rd year my Dad has been involved with baseball. I am so proud of the effect he has had on the lives of so many children in Smith County, including mine.
Since moving back to Smith County after graduating from law school I have sponsored a Minor League and a T-Ball Team. This coming season will mark the third year my son, Case Collins, will have played T-Ball for the ‘Collins Law Dogs.’ I hope I can carry on the tradition of being involved in the lives of the children of Smith County just like my Dad has been.
And by the way…if you can’t find me at the office or my house this spring, you’ll surely find me on the ballfield!