Tournaments | Story | 6/29/2019

Dynamic duo in Hoover

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Cam Collier (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – The duo of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on the left side of the New York Yankees infield terrorized the AL East for much of the 2000s. This week in Hoover, MGBA’s Termarr Johnson and Cam Collier strike similar fear in opposing teams, as the shortstop/third base pair make up one of the top infields in the WWBA 14u National Championship.

With Johnson at shortstop and Collier at third, opposing hitters have little success in finding holes on the ground. They get to everything. If you pop it up, Johnson is there to track it down, as he so effortlessly showed multiple times in MGBA’s game on Saturday. At the plate, you may be better off pitching around them, as their combination of power and speed jumps out. Both have the ability to change the game with one swing.

“They are just hard workers, both have a plus makeup,” said coach Lou Collier. “They really want to see their teammates excel and they are always helping each other. I think that separates them first.

“But then when you put that together with what they can do on the field, it’s a great formula,” Collier continued. “They both have arm strength, great defenders, good bats, but they also understand the game at a higher level. I think that’s a testament to how much they love baseball. Both Cam and Termarr are always watching the game and reading the papers. They love the game, and that is what you see on the field.”

For Cam Collier, you could say he was born into the sport. His father and MGBA coach, Lou Collier, played in the major leagues from 1997 through 2004. He also started the Lou Collier Baseball Association, a Chicago-based organization designed to give youth a positive atmosphere and successful role models. For the Colliers, baseball is in their blood.

And while there is no official class ranking for the high school class of 2023, the 6-foot, 200 pound Cam is listed as a high follow and physically looks the part of a player we are going to be hearing a lot from these next few years. On Saturday, he showed off his strike zone discipline in going 0-for-0 with three walks at the dish.

“My favorite part about baseball is the work,” he said. “ I know it’s an every day process. I embrace little things like hustling. I love being the first one on the field. It gives me great energy going into the defensive inning. I’m just trying to help my team win and get a championship.”

Lou Collier said he used to take a more hands on approach to coaching his son. He doesn’t do that anymore. Having spent so many years in the major leagues, he reads game situations and events before they happen. He’s a wealth of baseball knowledge, but he isn’t going to force that on Cam all the time. He’s mostly thankful he gets to be around his son as he matures as a player and a young man.

“It’s a gift and a curse,” said the elder Collier with a laugh. “I’m learning as a get older to keep my mouth shut and just watch him play. I want to let him make his mistakes and then when we get off the field we can talk about it.  When he was younger I probably got on him too much, but I understood he was just beginning. Now I’m starting to see that he gets it, and if he wants help with anything we can do that after the game.”

Nike used to run an ad campaign with LeBron James, and the premise was, “You don’t want to be me. You want to be better than me.” This is the attitude that Cam Collier embraces in regards to his father’s time in the pros.

“He pushes me to be the best I can be,” said Cam. “But I also look up all his stats and try to be better than him.”

Another major influence on Cam is his teammate, Termarr Johnson. They say that iron sharpens iron, and that is exactly what is occurring on MGBA 14u as two of the top players in the country get to play side by side on the left side of the diamond.

“Termarr makes me better,” said Cam. “I know he’s going to be over there making plays. That motivates me to play the best defense I can, too.”

Johnson is no stranger to Perfect Game events. He is ranked No. 3 overall in the high school class of 2022, and the top middle infielder in the grade. He was selected to the 2018 14u Select Festival. This week in Hoover, he is continuing to display why he is on the fast track to success, as he went 1-1 with two walks and a booming double straight into the wind at the Met.

“I just love this game,” said Johnson. “I love the ups and downs, and the work that goes into each day. Even if you lose, you just come back the next day ready to go.”

Much like Cam, Johnson credits his father as his biggest baseball influence. He says his family has been the key, supporting him wherever game has taken him.

“It all started when I was three,” said Johnson. “My dad gave me a bat and told me to swing it 30 times just to get a feel for it. From there, I’ve just loved it.”

Johnson has been playing with MGBA for a couple years and says that playing with Collier has helped him in all facets. Whether it is about struggles or success, whether it is in the field or at the plate, Johnson knows he has someone to go to and lean on. Both are top players in their respective classes, so as the stresses of college recruitment ramp up, the pair will have some solace knowing they are around someone who is experiencing the same thing.

“That’s my boy,” said Johnson of his teammate. “I feed off him and he feeds off me. It’s just a good vibe to be around guys like him.”

MGBA 14u still has five more pool play games in the WWBA 14u National Championship. Sitting at 1-1, they know there is little margin for error if they are going to win their pool and advance to the playoffs. But while winning is important, MGBA coaches understand what this time is really all about.

“At this age, we just want the kids to learn the game,” said Lou Collier. “First getting the fundamentals down, and then begin to recognize different situations. We have a team full of great athletes, but they have to learn how to play the game.”

Collier and Johnson are extremely advanced, but they are also just starting high school. The bright lights of college and professional baseball are still years away. In the meantime, though, they continue to love what they get to do every day.

“They both have a lot of work to do, and I think they understand that,” said Lou Collier. “But we’re just enjoying the ride.”

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