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Baseball scouts today often search for players with specific “tools” such as power, speed, or a strong arm.
The Mud Hens’ Tyler Collins has used another tool to come within a step of the major leagues.
“My game is hustle,” he said. “I’m going to give 100 percent, whether it’s at the plate, in the field or on the bases.
“And I mean 100 percent effort, 100 percent focus. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
That isn’t the only tool that has helped the 24-year-old rocket through the Tigers organization. He has shown the ability to hit, throw, and run, catching the eyes of the Tigers this spring.
That’s the reason Detroit placed the Texas native on its opening day roster in just his third season of professional ball. Collins said his focus on spring training was not on trying to earn a spot on the Tigers roster.
“Spring training is about getting ready for the season, whether it’s in Detroit or Triple-A or Double-A,” Collins said. “I approached it as just getting ready, and let everything else take care of itself.”
Collins used a strong spring to make the Detroit roster.
He played in just seven games for the Tigers before he was sent to the Mud Hens in mid-April.
Toledo manager Larry Parrish has watched Collins hit .244 in 54 games with the Hens this season, his first in Triple-A. While the 24-year-old outfielder already has belted nine home runs and has 33 RBIs, Parrish thinks there is more in the tank for the young left-handed hitter.
“I look at him as a kid who is untapped,” Parrish said. “His swing mechanics are good, and when he hits a ball, it stays hit.
“But he’s still going through the learning curve.”
Parrish said the biggest thing that Collins has to control is the drive that has pushed him to the brink of the big leagues.
“His ‘want-to’ can be a plus or a minus,” Parrish said. “Sometimes he wants to do too much, trying to hit the ball into the river instead of just out of the ballpark. …
“He’s gone through a few batting helmets. He’s broken some bats in games, and he’s broken some in the dugout.”
Do not misunderstand: Parrish likes the drive of the Texas native.
“There’s a fire there, and it’s a lot easier to pour some water on a fire than it is to start that fire,” Parrish said. “To me, the worst thing is to not be able to light someone’s fire.
“Right now we’re working with him on toning down that fire and channeling it in the right direction.”
Recently Collins has shown off his skills in a variety of different ways. One example was his game-winning home run to beat Buffalo Sunday, but another came a day earlier in a lopsided loss to the Bisons.
With a runner on first base and none out, a Buffalo hitter lined a ball down the left-field line. Collins was able to cut the ball off, spin and throw to third in time to easily nail the baserunner trying to take two bases.
“I knew he was going to try and go from first to third, but I got a good jump on the ball and cut it off,” Collins said. “That ‘spin’ move is something we work on in spring training, so it’s almost second nature to make sure I come up and make a good, strong throw.”
That’s one of the reasons Collins is comfortable that his value to a team is larger than any statistics he can generate.
“You can eat yourself alive worrying about your numbers, because they’re never going to be good enough,” he said.
“My goal is to win. If we’re winning, everything else will fall into place.”
AT THE PLATE: Tyler Collins
■ Position: Outfielder.
■ Ht./Wt.: 5-11/215.
■ Hometown: Lubbock, Texas.
■ Age: 24.
■ Nickname: Teese or T-C.
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the field: I love hunting and fishing.
■ Baseball player you admired growing up: Rusty Greer. I grew up as a Rangers fan, and he coached one of my teams. He was a great influence on me.
■ Favorite sport other than baseball: Football, especially college football.
■ Favorite music: Country music. Randy Rogers is probably my favorite.
■ Favorite meal: A big plate of either fajitas or enchiladas.
■ Favorite beverage: Sweet tea.
■ Favorite movie: Forrest Gump.
■ Favorite TV show: Big Bang Theory, but all-time it’s Friday Night Lights.
■ Do you have a Twitter account: @TylerCollins1.
■ Person you most admire: My parents, Scott and Karen. They have given me an opportunity to do things, and they have been with me through good times and bad.
■ If you could meet any person, who would it be? I would like to spend more time with my grandfather, Victor Kuykendall. He fought in World War II and was a police officer in Midland, Texas. My mom always says I’m just like him, but he died when I was eight.
■ Top sports moment: Winning the Florida State League title in 2011. But I hope more is to come.
■ Baseball superstitions: I try not to step on the lines, but that’s about it.
■ Something nobody knows about you: I am a huge soccer fan. I am a fan of Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur and I am rooting for Team USA in the World Cup.