Gonzaga pitcher keeps getting better with age
Gonzaga Vikings veteran pitcher Dick Collins warms up prior to a St. Johns Molson senior baseball game against Guards at St. Pats Ball Park Thursday. Collins, 42, says part of the reason for his longevity in the game is his willingness to look after himself. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram.
Derek (Dick) Collins is the oldest pitcher in the St. Johns Senior Baseball League and theres no chance hell forget it any time soon.
His teammates and opposing batters are always reminding him.
On his way into St. Pats Ball Park Thursday evening, a fellow Gonzaga Viking spots Collins and shouts How old are you now, 56? Shouldnt you be playing slo-pitch by now?
Collins laughs it off and reminds everyone hes only 42 and still has plenty of baseball left in his right arm.
Some people are surprised Im still pitching, Collins said. Usually a pitcher doesnt last into his 40s. Often, youve lost so much velocity at that age, you cant compete. But I havent lost a lot of velocity. Its a little down, but not enough that I cant compete.
Collins has pitched at the senior level since he was 16. Over the years, he has played for a number of teams, including Feildians and Guards. Hes spent the past seven years with Gonzaga and is still a valued member of the Vikings starting rotation.
Almost all the guys Collins played senior with 26 years ago have long since retired, some because they lost interest and others because their body began to break down. Collins hasnt had a problem in either regard and says thats why he can still contribute at 42.
I take care of myself, I always have, Collins said. In the past six or seven years, I worked out in the off-season, a lot of stretching and I use light weights. But I think the big thing is knowing how not to abuse my arm, I make sure I dont get myself in those situations. I ice my shoulder a lot the last eight years, and Ive been lucky, too.
Collins has a well-earned reputation as a rubber-armed pitcher capable of throwing a lot of innings. Hes always been able to take the ball on short notice without much rest between starts, and last year threw a couple of complete games. However, Collins admits it takes him a little longer now to get his arm in shape than it did when he was 25 or even 35.
In his season debut last week, Collins had to call it a night much earlier than he wanted or expected.
After four innings, I was done. Six, seven years ago, that wouldnt have been the case, Collins said. Until July hits, when my arm is in top shape, I cant go seven or eight innings.
Another change in Collins pitching is the addition of a change-up, which he started using five years ago. He said laying off the fastballs has saved his arm a bit and the new pitch gives him another way to get batters out.
I was more of a thrower years ago, like Troy here, Collins said jokingly in the direction of teammate Troy Croft, who was quick with a saucy reply. But after being on a number of all-star teams and talking to guys like Sean Gulliver and Bobby Kent Sr., I just realized I had to use my head more, had to think and change speeds. I learned a new way to get guys out and thats part of the reason Im still at it.
Joking around with teammates is nothing new to Collins, and he enjoys giving as good as he takes on a nightly basis. The banter is a big reason he still plays senior baseball in a league where a lot of players are 15-20 years his junior.
I like the camaraderie with the guys, Collins said. Gonzaga has a lot of really good personalities, guys that want to play and want to win really bad. Every year, we know were on the verge of getting to the next level ... And I just enjoy it.
Collins added he has no plans to retire in the next few years and will continue pitching until someone tells him he cant anymore. Judging by the way hes pitched in recent years, thats not a conversation he has to worry about for a while.
If I wasnt doing this ... Id probably be playing golf. But I cant be going playing golf every day, its too expensive, Collins said with a laugh. As long as I can compete. If I couldnt compete, I wouldnt be at it.