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White Sox first-round draft pick Zack Collins throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the game Saturday. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

White Sox first-round pick Collins gets first taste of the Cell

SHARE White Sox first-round pick Collins gets first taste of the Cell
SHARE White Sox first-round pick Collins gets first taste of the Cell

Patrick Collins stood near home plate and took in the moment before Saturday’s Blue Jays-White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field.

He beamed with pride as he watched his 21-year-old son, Sox first-round draft choice Zack Collins, drive baseballs into the outfield during batting practice.

For the White Sox players and coaches in attendance, this was just another day at work. For Zack Collins and his family, this was “a dream come true.”

“I told Zack: ‘Listen, these people believe in you.’” Patrick Collins said. “’They believe in your catching. They believe in your hitting. They basically believe in you.’ He just wanted somebody to believe in him, and these guys do. So, I’m really ecstatic that he fell in this position.”

The day was Zack Collins’ first taste of Major League Baseball, the White Sox and The Cell.

The 10th overall pick was in the house a day after signing his minor league contract – with a $3,380,600 signing bonus – to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and take in a game with his parents, grandparents, sister and girlfriend.

“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Zack Collins said. “I’m just enjoying it.”

Patrick was Zack’s first coach, teaching him the essentials of baseball as early as 3 years old.

Patrick played football and baseball in high school and said he began playing competitive slow-pitch softball later in his life with people like Ozzie and Jose Canseco and Lenny Harris.

Zack grew up around those softball fields, playing catch with former pros and finding he had a knack for the game.

“Everything I know now, I learned from my dad,” Zack Collins said. “He’s always been the one that threw me BP and worked with me in the infield and the outfield and catching. He’s the best dad ever.”

Given his upbringing around pro athletes, Collins seemed completely unfazed after taking batting practice with Justin Morneau, Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu. He was just 4 years old when Morneau was signed by the Twins in 1999. He was 11 when Morneau won the American League MVP.

Collins hit in the cage, took batting practice in front of Robin Ventura, ran the bases and spoke to a throng of media afterward.

“I got all the jitters out in the cage,” Collins said. “When I came out here I was just having fun swinging the bat and talking to the guys. They are all great guys and it was a lot of fun.”

Collins speaks like a player who plans to be in the big leagues quickly. The pace of his ascent may depend on where he lands defensively.

Scouts aren’t sure that Collins will remain behind the plate as a defensive catcher. Collins started catching in high school and, along with Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler, believes he’ll still be there when he gets called up for his first game.

“I think that’s where I’ll stick,” he said.

There’s less doubt about the bat Collins will bring with him. The 6-3, 220-pound Collins batted .363 with 16 homers and 59 RBIs for the University of Miami this season.

Perhaps even more impressive were his 69 walks, just 48 strikeouts and his .358/.534/.631 slash line.

Patrick Collins doesn’t care what position his son plays or how he quickly he joins the Sox. He’s just proud of his son and glad he landed in Chicago.

“I’m really happy he’s here,” Patrick Collins said, “because I wanted him to go to a real baseball town.”

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