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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Blue Jays prospect Boomer Collins' playing cricket

By on Tuesday, December 01, 2015
 Collins breaking all new ground  --- going to  foreign country; entirely foreign game, cricket!
 

Boomer Collins got the bad news the other day from the Toronto Blue Jays: After three seasons with the organization’s affiliates in the lower rungs of the minors, the ball club was releasing him.
Over the next few weeks, though, the 26-year-old outfielder from Dallas, Texas will be trying to land a job in a foreign land. That might not seem all that groundbreaking at a glance, given that ballplayers light out to Latin America, Asia or even Europe for a chance to stay in the game.
Collins, though, is breaking all new ground. He’s not just going to a foreign country but also to an entirely foreign game: cricket.
Collins will be spending the month of December in Bangalore, the capital of state of Karnataka, where he’s hoping to hit for six in workouts with scouts from teams in India’s professional league in attendance. He’s also hoping that he’ll be given a tryout and a contract at some point down the line.
“How this all will work with the timing I really don’t know just because it’s never been done before,” he says.
It might sound like an entirely quixotic adventure but at least someone in the industry thinks he has a chance: Cricket Store Online signed Collins to an endorsement deal before he had packed his bags for India.
All of it is enough to set Collins’s head spinning like a well-placed beamer (cricket’s head-high brushback for those as new to the game as Collins).
“I never knew anything about cricket until a year or so ago,” Collins said. “That’s when I was approached by Julien [Fountain].”
Fountain had a well-established reputation as a cricket coach who has worked with national teams and club sides in virtually every nation where the game is played, from powerhouses such as Australia and his native England, to minnows such as Ireland and Canada.
What makes him unique among cricketers is that he has not only played and coached the game at the international level but also done the same in baseball. He played for United Kingdom’s national teams and tried out for the Royals, the White Sox and the Mets.
Last winter he founded T20, a project that will take minor-leaguers at the end of their careers and try to repurpose their skills to play in pro leagues around the world. He launched a website registry for interested players and says he’s in the process of setting up training camps.
Not that T20 is entirely untested. In South Korea a few years ago Fountain had runaway success with taking an entire team of former elite baseball players and turning them into a national team that made the quarterfinals of the Asian Games.
When I spoke to Fountain back in the spring, he told me that he had talked to Collins and as many as 50 other minor leaguers who had expressed interest in crossing over to cricket. And he was convinced that, in time, he was not going to be limited to recruiting players only after they had been released by their organizations. He was positively evangelical about T20.
“Players are paid for poorly and treated so unfairly and given so little real opportunity to advance [in minor-league baseball], a chance to play professional cricket will give them a chance to earn a living through the skills they’ve spent years acquiring,” Fountain said.
Fountain had spoken to a couple of other players in the Jays’ organization, but it was Collins who emerged as the best candidate to take the T20 experiment to the next stage. Last off-season Collins told me that he wanted to keep his interest in cricket and Fountain’s project on the down low for fear that the Blue Jays might not appreciate him investigating other career options while under contract. With his release, however, Collins is ready to dive in.
He admits that the transition hasn’t exactly been seamless.
“The toughest adjustment is hitting a ball that’s bouncing and on the rise with spin,” Collins said. “But it’s an adjustment and if you have the hand-eye co-ordination to hit a round ball with a round bat in professional baseball, then you can adapt with practice and exposure. I think my skills defensively should translate quicker in the field—there’ll be some techniques and strategy where I’ll have a bit of a learning curve.”
Collins, who was featured in a Sportsnet Magazine story about the Blue Jays’ affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, knew he was up against it when he went undrafted after his senior season at Dallas Baptist in 2013 and signed on with the organization as a minor-league free agent at age 24. He had a chance to play pro ball, but, assigned to rookie league for his first full season, management never projected him to play in the majors.
In fact, if he hadn’t hit .300 and been named a GCL all-star that season, his pro career might have not have lasted longer than a summer. He went on to play a season in Vancouver and last year in Lansing but, unless another MLB organization steps up or he sees an opportunity with an independent-league team, he has played his last pro game on the diamond and is ready to cast his lot on the pitch.
Collins expresses no regret about not pursuing cricket earlier. “Maybe my skills would be different if I got an earlier start [in cricket], I suppose,” he says. “Still I enjoyed every game I played [in the Jays organization] and I don’t think 26 is too late to take up cricket. The one thing is that I’ve played a game professionally. I know what it’s like when the stakes are raised.”
Fountain gave Collins two pieces of advice that he says he’s going to stick to: “1. Don’t flip your bat when you hit for six. 2. Don’t drink the water.”
Boomer Collins got the bad news the other day from the Toronto Blue Jays: After three seasons with the organization’s affiliates in the lower rungs of the minors, the ball club was releasing him.
Over the next few weeks, though, the 26-year-old outfielder from Dallas, Texas will be trying to land a job in a foreign land. That might not seem all that groundbreaking at a glance, given that ballplayers light out to Latin America, Asia or even Europe for a chance to stay in the game.
Collins, though, is breaking all new ground. He’s not just going to a foreign country but also to an entirely foreign game: cricket.
Collins will be spending the month of December in Bangalore, the capital of state of Karnataka, where he’s hoping to hit for six in workouts with scouts from teams in India’s professional league in attendance. He’s also hoping that he’ll be given a tryout and a contract at some point down the line.
“How this all will work with the timing I really don’t know just because it’s never been done before,” he says.
It might sound like an entirely quixotic adventure but at least someone in the industry thinks he has a chance: Cricket Store Online signed Collins to an endorsement deal before he had packed his bags for India.
All of it is enough to set Collins’s head spinning like a well-placed beamer (cricket’s head-high brushback for those as new to the game as Collins).
“I never knew anything about cricket until a year or so ago,” Collins said. “That’s when I was approached by Julien [Fountain].”
Fountain had a well-established reputation as a cricket coach who has worked with national teams and club sides in virtually every nation where the game is played, from powerhouses such as Australia and his native England, to minnows such as Ireland and Canada.
What makes him unique among cricketers is that he has not only played and coached the game at the international level but also done the same in baseball. He played for United Kingdom’s national teams and tried out for the Royals, the White Sox and the Mets.
Last winter he founded T20, a project that will take minor-leaguers at the end of their careers and try to repurpose their skills to play in pro leagues around the world. He launched a website registry for interested players and says he’s in the process of setting up training camps.
Not that T20 is entirely untested. In South Korea a few years ago Fountain had runaway success with taking an entire team of former elite baseball players and turning them into a national team that made the quarterfinals of the Asian Games.
When I spoke to Fountain back in the spring, he told me that he had talked to Collins and as many as 50 other minor leaguers who had expressed interest in crossing over to cricket. And he was convinced that, in time, he was not going to be limited to recruiting players only after they had been released by their organizations. He was positively evangelical about T20.
“Players are paid for poorly and treated so unfairly and given so little real opportunity to advance [in minor-league baseball], a chance to play professional cricket will give them a chance to earn a living through the skills they’ve spent years acquiring,” Fountain said.
Fountain had spoken to a couple of other players in the Jays’ organization, but it was Collins who emerged as the best candidate to take the T20 experiment to the next stage. Last off-season Collins told me that he wanted to keep his interest in cricket and Fountain’s project on the down low for fear that the Blue Jays might not appreciate him investigating other career options while under contract. With his release, however, Collins is ready to dive in.
He admits that the transition hasn’t exactly been seamless.
“The toughest adjustment is hitting a ball that’s bouncing and on the rise with spin,” Collins said. “But it’s an adjustment and if you have the hand-eye co-ordination to hit a round ball with a round bat in professional baseball, then you can adapt with practice and exposure. I think my skills defensively should translate quicker in the field—there’ll be some techniques and strategy where I’ll have a bit of a learning curve.”
Collins, who was featured in a Sportsnet Magazine story about the Blue Jays’ affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, knew he was up against it when he went undrafted after his senior season at Dallas Baptist in 2013 and signed on with the organization as a minor-league free agent at age 24. He had a chance to play pro ball, but, assigned to rookie league for his first full season, management never projected him to play in the majors.
In fact, if he hadn’t hit .300 and been named a GCL all-star that season, his pro career might have not have lasted longer than a summer. He went on to play a season in Vancouver and last year in Lansing but, unless another MLB organization steps up or he sees an opportunity with an independent-league team, he has played his last pro game on the diamond and is ready to cast his lot on the pitch.
Collins expresses no regret about not pursuing cricket earlier. “Maybe my skills would be different if I got an earlier start [in cricket], I suppose,” he says. “Still I enjoyed every game I played [in the Jays organization] and I don’t think 26 is too late to take up cricket. The one thing is that I’ve played a game professionally. I know what it’s like when the stakes are raised.”
Fountain gave Collins two pieces of advice that he says he’s going to stick to: “1. Don’t flip your bat when you hit for six. 2. Don’t drink the water.”

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