Ryan Collins: An Impact Freshman

True freshman outfielder Ryan Collins is one of several freshmen on the Mississippi State baseball team that have made a significant impact on this year's Bulldog squad. And that bodes well for the future of the program.

Although the team is only 11-15 so far on the season, that doesn't worry Collins because he sees what the future holds.

"We are struggling right now, but (playing young players is) going to really pay off in the future," said Collins, who along with Jason Nappi and Cody Freeman are everyday starters as freshmen. "You look at everybody that is playing and pretty much everybody will be coming back. It really looks good for the future. We just have to keep working hard."

What the Mississippi State fans are seeing from Collins is no surprise to the MSU coaching staff. They liked him from the first time they saw him.

"The thing you notice about Ryan is his tremendous work ethic," said assistant coach Tommy Raffo of the 6-0, 190-pound lefthanded hitter. "When you watch him play, he really grows on you because of how hard he plays. We, as coaches, like to call guys like him cager addicts. He works very hard to get better."

Once the State coaches saw him, they kept following him throughout the summer between his junior and senior seasons.

"They first started talking to me the summer before my senior year," said Collins. "Coach Raffo and Coach (Russ) McNickle came and watched me in a few tournaments when I was on my summer traveling team."

While his work ethic is impressive, his hitting ability may be even more impressive as evidenced by his batting average and on-base percentage of .351 (third on the team) and .486 (first on the team).

"(My hitting is) probably due to my quick hands, because I don't have the most power of anyone," said Collins. "My philosophy is to just put the ball in play and avoid strikeouts."

And Raffo has really liked what he has seen from the freshman when it comes to putting the ball in play.

"His walks to strikeouts ratio is tremendous for a freshman," said Raffo of Collins, who has walked 15 times while striking out 8. "It's almost two to one."

Collins gives the MSU assistant coaches a lot of credit for that thanks to a few adjustments they've helped him with.

"There wasn't a lot of things to change when I came in here, but Coach Raffo and Coach (Wade) Hedges have really worked with me on the little things like timing and hands and working a lot of drills," said Collins, who is hitting a solid .292 in conference games. "Once they did that, it really helped out and has really paid off."

As for how he wound up at Mississippi State, while Collins had several college opportunities, he realized Mississippi State was the place for him on his official visit.

"I took a visit to Troy and they offered me, then I came up here and they offered me," said Collins, who played his high school ball at Rutherford High School in Panama City, Florida. "I was supposed to go to Alabama and Miami for visits, but after my visit here I decided to come here."

He explained what drew him to State.

"I liked the atmosphere and how everything was laid back and so down home and that the people were real nice," said Collins. "And playing in the SEC was always a dream of mine."

And he couldn't be happier with his decision.

"I love it here," said the youngster. "You get to play in front of big crowds like we did Saturday, and you can't beat playing in the SEC."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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