Playing in honor of Michael Collins

Maddie Hutson, Staff Reporter

On March 28th, 2014 Wildcat alumni Michael Collins was enjoying a night out with several of his friends. They made the responsible choice to call a designated driver to give them a ride home and were also all wearing their seatbelts; however, a 37 year old woman on probation made a much different decision that would forever change the lives of Michael’s family and our community. She decided to get behind the wheel of her car with a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit and drive down the road at speeds exceeding 130 mph. described what happened next, “A horrific crash…two brain surgeries…five days clinging for his life. Michael Collins went to be with his Lord and Savior on April 2, 2014.”

Shortly after, the Michael Collins Foundation was created in his honor. The focus of the foundation is to honor Michael’s faithful life. The “Pay it Forward” movement and  #MCStrong both were endlessly supported and have influence spreading far beyond central Illinois. These movements were reported in the May 19th, 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Baseball was one of Michael’s passions, as he played in the Wildcat uniform and coached the U-high Pioneers. Normal West Freshman Baseball coach, Shawn Beaty said,“I will always remember Michael being the teammate that could keep things positive and loose when times got tense or when it was a tough game.”  

Michael was a middle infielder and pitcher at West in 2009 and 2010 when they won back-to-back Big 12 Conference championships. He earned All-conference recognition and place on the all star team. After his time at Normal West, Collins continued on to play two years of college baseball for the Heartland Hawks.

After Michael’s accident in 2014, the Michael Collins Memorial Invitational baseball tournament was created for local and surrounding area teams to play each other in Michael’s honor. This year’s invitational was April 26th-May 1st at the Corn Crib. All of the money made from the games gets donated to the MC Strong foundation.

On Friday April 29th, Michael’s two beloved schools played each other on his home field. Junior baseball player, Caleb Jacobs said, “Knowing that we are playing for Michael Collins alone pushes us to be at our best playing potential on the night of the game.  I think it’s also a very important game because it is the school he attended versus the school he coached. Its an amazing story, and everyone on our team is prepared to go out and give 100% for Michael.”

Normal West scored twice in the seventh inning of this matchup, forcing extra innings. The deciding run came in the eight on a Peyton Dillingham single for a 7-6 victory over U-high.

Win or lose, the games had deeper meaning, and that was to bring light and honor to Michael Collins and the inspiring life he lead. His strong faith and spirit touches the hearts of all who hear his story.

2016 Michael Collins Memorial Invitational, hosted by the Corn Crib April 26th-May 1st.