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Friday, June 15, 2012

Collins jacked up for PG National

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS - With another amazing spring high school season behind him, Zack Collins is now in position to look forward to what promises to be another amazing summer season.

Collins, the top-ranked catching prospect in the high school class of 2013 and a University of Miami recruit, got a nice start to the summer when he accepted a coveted invitation to the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase, being held this week here inside the Metrodome.

With more than 300 scouts and college coaches and recruiters in attendance to observe and take copious notes, there is no place else a top national prospect would want to be.

"I'm really excited about this. To play in the Metrodome and everything, it's just awesome," Collins said shortly after arriving at Mall of America Field late Friday afternoon. "I've been waiting for this since I first got the (invitation). I've never been to a showcase before and I'm just here to play. I'm sure Perfect Game runs everything perfect; I'm just here to show what I can do, and that's really about it."

While this may be Collins' first Perfect Game showcase experience, it is not his first Perfect Game event experience. He has played in seven PG WWBA and five PG BCS Finals tournaments since 2009, and his exposure in front of PG scouts at those tournaments has caused his national profile to skyrocket.

As Collins prepared Friday night to take part in the PG National's second of three workout sessions,  he was ranked the No. 6 prospect in the country, regardless of position. He really grabbed the attention of the scouting community during a rainy week in mid-July at the 2011 PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 16u National Championship in Marietta, Ga.

Collins is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound catcher and general utility player who swings from the left side of the plate and throws right-handed. At the 16u National Championship, he almost single-handedly led the South Florida Elite Squad 16u Black to the tournament championship.

After a loss in the pool-play opener, Collins helped SFES 16u Black to 10 straight wins, including four straight on the final day of the tournament. He was 18-for-29 (.621) with seven doubles, two home runs and 16 RBI for the tournament and an even more incredible 13-for-17 (.765) with all seven of his doubles and both home runs coming in the five playoff games. He was named the tournament MVP.

Perfect Game named the performance its No. 6 top story in the PG tourneys/showcases Year in Review breakdown published on Jan. 2.

"That was one of those deals where one of our catchers had to leave the tournament early and I had to catch the rest of the playoffs, which was one day of (four) games if you made it to the championship, and I (caught every game)," Collins said Friday. "Everything was clicking and I was just swinging the bat well and that's what happened."

Collins next carried his hot bat to the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., in early October and was 7-for-11 (.636) with a double, a triple and a home run. PG scouting coordinator Todd Gold noted that Collins "posted a ridiculous 67 percent line-drive rate, showing the ability to not only pull the ball with authority but to also consistently drive the ball to the opposite gap in left-center."

When asked what makes him such a consistent threat at the plate, Collins really was at a loss for words.

"I work on hitting, catching, fielding, my arm and everything," he said. "Hitting is just the thing I do (well). Me and my dad - he throws me to every day - and he throws hard, he throws curveballs and everything else, so I see the ball really well."

Collins will be a senior in the fall at baseball powerhouse American Heritage High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. American Heritage is ranked No. 1 in the country in Perfect Game's most recent National High School Top 50 Rankings, which are essentially the final rankings for 2012. American Heritage won the Florida Class 5A state championship and finished with a 28-4 overall record.

Collins was terrific, batting a team-high .442 (34-for-77) with team-highs of four home runs, 11 doubles and 31 RBIs. He didn't do it alone, of course, and three of his American Heritage teammates are also at the Metrodome this weekend for the PG National Showcase: right-hander Shaun Anderson, outfielder Brandon Diaz and third baseman Danny Zardon, who Collins traveled here with.

Those three also enjoyed terrific spring seasons at American Heritage, Anderson in particular. He finished 6-1 with a 0.77 ERA, and allowed only 31 hits and 15 walks while striking out 74 in 63 1/3 innings. Anderson has committed to Florida, Diaz to Florida International and Zardon to LSU.

"Our high school team was very talented," Collins said. "We had a bunch of top players on our team and we worked hard every day, also. At one point in the season we weren't doing very well ... but we just kept working and we did well and we ended up No. 1 at the end."

Anderson, Diaz and Zardon, and American Heritage class of 2012 standouts Brandon Lopez, Domenick Mancini and Alex Seibold were with Collins on the roster of the Red Sox Scout Team/Elite Squad that competed in the 2011 PG WWBA World Championship.

"We're really tight," Collins said. "We play on the same summer team and the same high school team," Collins said. "We're with each other all the time and we're really tight."

Collins will start his third full summer of playing for the Pembroke Pines-based South Florida Elite Squad in the coming weeks, and couldn't be any more pleased with the way his travel ball experiences have panned out over the years.

"It's an awesome relationship," Collins said. "The founder of South Florida Elite Squad (Richie Palmer) is our coach for the summer. He has seven teams this summer and he decided to coach ours, and he's a great guy and he's just awesome."

While Collins has committed to Miami, his name will be mentioned frequently when the discussion of possible first-round selections in the 2013 MLB amateur draft heats up. PG ranks Collins as the No. 16 overall (No. 5 among high school seniors) top prospect in the draft.

Collins was ready to show off his potent bat to all the scouts spread out in the box seats that curl behind home plate and up along the first and third baselines in the Metrodome during a BP session late Friday. They watched while he almost effortlessly deposited four long bombs into the concourse well over the infamous "baggie" in right field. Collins seemed to feel quite comfortable with his station in life.

"This is where all the talent comes, to this one event," he said. "It's awesome to watch and see what there is all around the world, and it's amazing."

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