DAYTONA — Bright as his future inarguably is, Cam Collier isn’t afraid to look back.
More specifically, to his time with the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series, where he helped gain the confidence he needed to ultimately be selected by the Cincinnati Reds with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
“I was always talk about that first Future Stars event,” Collier said. “That was my first time seeing that type of velo, and that jumpstarted it all for me, because once I knew I could handle it and knew I could handle it, it gave me the confidence to just keep going. I always look back at that event, I always look at the videos. Without that, it probably would have took more time for me to know that I’m ready and I didn’t have to be scared of it.”
Collier delivered a stunning, two-homer performance at the 2020 National Combine in Lake Charles, Louisiana as a 15-year-old in his FSS signature event debut, with one blast so prodigious that it was featured in a national New Balance commercial.
Between that and appearances at International Week in Fenway Park in 2020 and the Main Event the following year at Citi Field, Collier has plenty of good memories to look back on when he needs to.
“You just look back at when you were doing good,” he said. “You try to take the good from it, and add it to right now so you can get back to that spot.”
The current spot for Collier is with the Low-A Daytona Tortugas, where he’s one of the youngest players in both the Florida State League and full-season minor league ball, a path he chose after reclassifying from the 2023 MLB Draft to the 2022 installment by earning his GED and playing JUCO ball at Chipola.
“That helped me mature as a baseball player a lot faster than I would have as a high schooler,” Collier said. “It gave me a little glimpse into what pro ball would actually be like, playing with older guys, that level of competition, and the schedule was harder. Getting used to all that, it helped. But, I knew it was the right decision from the jump, because if my dad (former major-leaguer Lou Collier) was on board, it definitely is the right decision. I piggybacked off of him, and trusted him, because he’s never steered me wrong in anything I’ve ever done.”
A standout year at Chipola in which he hit .333 with eight home runs and 47 RBI over 52 games kept him in the conversation to be among the top picks in the most recent Draft, and he was nearly universally considered a steal with the 18th pick.
“It was just a blessing,” Collier said. “Seeing that dream unfold in front of your eyes, just waiting for your name to be called…and when it’s called, being there with your loved ones, it was just an amazing experience and a blessing.”
It’s been a similar feeling to get to go through the entirety of that experience with fellow Future Stars Series alum Kenya Huggins, whom he also played with at Chipola, and was selected in the fourth round of the same draft by Cincinnati. They’re now teammates in Daytona as well, which has made the transition to full-season pro ball after his 2022 debut in the Arizona Complex League significantly easier.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been like having a brother with me through the whole process,” Collier said. “Having him at Chipola, having him at Future Stars, we’ve been everywhere. So, just having him with me, it’s been easier for me to bond with somebody and share the journey with.”
Collier is, of course, still making adjustments to his new surroundings. He’s off to a modest start this year with a .222 batting average, four RBI and eight walks in his first 12 games — he was also hampered through most of spring training by injury — and says he is facing considerably better pitching on a more consistent basis than he ever has before, as they use their scouting reports to try to exploit weaknesses in his game.
He’s focused on changing those weaknesses into strengths on the field, but when asked about where he’s been making the most strides with his development, he chose to focus on what he’s been doing off of it.
“I’m just working on being a better team guy,” he said. “I want to help my team win as many games as possible, no matter what that has to be; just getting my body in shape to where I can be the best player for my team, the organization and getting accustomed to professional baseball.”
Not a bad approach for an 18-year-old kid, but certainly one that’s always seemed to show maturity far beyond his years.
“Not too many people get this opportunity at my age,” he said. “It’s definitely a blessing, and I’m just happy to be able to be the person on this journey.”
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