Heartland Head Baseball Coach Nate Metzger has nothing but fond memories of Michael Collins.
Nate Metzger, Heartland head coach: "He was kind of that limelight guy, who as a player maybe didn't get a lot of limelight. You know, he was a kind of intangibles guy, a role player."
That role: playing hard, and inspiring his teammates to do the same. It even has the CornBelters looking to follow his example.
"I don't think I would think about the results as much as the way you play the game,” said Pat McKenna, shortstop for the CornBelters.
For two years, Collins was in the middle of this diamond, and now, four months after a fatal car accident, he's still in the center of the hearts of thousands around the globe.
"Despite the tragic circumstances, with the pay it forward and the various tributes, we've seen a lot of good come from it,” said Jim Collins, Michael’s father.
The tributes have poured in, since the crash, from local high schools and Heartland. And on this night, the CornBelters, and dozens of fans, all donned Collins' Number: 19, with the words "MC-Strong" emblazoned proudly across their backs.
It's to honor a young man, who wore his faith on his sleeve. And it’s how the family says they’re staying strong in the wake of the tragedy.
“I don’t know how anyone could get through it without faith,” said Jim Collins. “The fact that Michael knew the Lord and was a follower of Jesus certainly doesn’t make this easy, but I will tell you it makes it easier. I can’t imagine going through this if I didn’t know that fact.”
And that tribute, and the newly minted quilt that represents much of Michael Collins’ life, would have been something his friends and family say that he’d love to see.
"He would have truly been happy and proud of the message, the all-encompassing message that it really stands for,” said Metzger.
And a front row seat, dedicated to Michael they'll never sell again, at a stadium he said he loved playing at the most.
"It's very special to know that even though he's left us, his presence is going to be felt at the Corn Crib and he will be here in spirit,” said Jim Collins.
The Collins family gave out 500 pay it forward cards after the game, to encourage fans to keep the positivity coming in the wake of tragedy.
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