WEST POINT — Collins Brown feels like he has been at Oak Hill Academy forever.
When you have been a fixture on the school’s athletic teams since the eighth grade, it’s easy to see how one player can become the face of baseball or a football team.
Along the way, Brown has played with numerous standouts. This season, Brown and senior classmates Dylan Scott and Reiley Tate have fueled the baseball team’s run to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AA playoffs. Initial speculation has Brown, Scott, and Tate going to the same school to continue their baseball careers. Earlier this month, Tate took the first step when he signed to play at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
On Thursday, Brown and Scott finalized their plans when they signed National Letters of Intent to play baseball at Blue Mountain College, an NAIA school that is located 15 minutes north of New Albany.
“I am glad it is here. I am ready to move on,” Brown said of his time at Oak Hill Academy. “It has been fun being here. I wouldn’t ask for anywhere else better to be or to play for any other coaches than coach (Mitch) Bohon and (former Oak Hill Academy baseball) coach (Marion) Bratton.”
Brown is one of the team leaders with a .514 batting average. He has three doubles, three home runs, 20 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. He has walked 30 times and struck out only five times.
Bohon said Brown has been “steady” since he was in the eighth grade, when he earned a starting spot for the Raiders. Injuries have hampered Brown’s availability, though. In his junior football season, Brown needed Tommy John surgery, which restricted his ability to make an impression on coaches. But Bohon said Brown didn’t allow setbacks to define him.
“He has worked really hard. He has wanted to work,” Bohon said. “That is the difference between him and most kids. He is dynamic behind the dish. He is a leader. He has intangibles that not all players have.”
Brown said he did a lot of thinking to get his mental approach ready so he could return from injuries in his sixth-, eighth-, and 11th-grade years. He said his goal always was to come back stronger each time. Brown said his mental growth is his biggest area of improvement.
“It is hard coming back from injuries and you have to keep your mind right, and sometimes your mind is not there,” Brown said. “This year I have learned how to control myself. I have learned I can’t necessarily control what other people do, but I can do my best to do my job and encourage them.”
Scott said he met Blue Mountain assistant coach Chase Reeves, a former standout at Hamilton High School, last summer and played travel ball with him. He said Reeves has kept track of his progress since then and became even more interested when Scott added a few mph to his fastball. Adding 20 pounds since his junior season has helped Scott move into the mid 80s, which Bohon is only part of the maturation for the right-hander.
“Dylan really worked hard to fine tune some things,” Bohon said. “He gained some velocity on his fastball and has become an improved hitter. He is going to get a chance to go as a dual guy.”
Scott is hitting .409 with five doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. Scott also has a 5-2 record with a 2.10 earned run average. He has struck out 35 in 30 innings.
Scott said he was surprised he was able to add velocity thanks to the throwing program he has been on. He said it is the first time he has been on a program designed to improve his velocity. The program also might be helping him with his hitting, too,
“Last year, I didn’t hit any home runs,” Scott said. “This year, they are just popping off the bat. I am staying back a lot better.”
Scott, who transferred from West Point prior to his junior year, said he has had a goal to play baseball in college ever since he started playing T-ball. He said he always was confident he would receive an offer, even though he said he initially got down after he changed schools. A year ago, Scott said he felt like he would get one or two offers, but he feels his improvement and development in the last year helped him convince college coaches he could compete at the next level.
“I feel like I have improved a lot,” Scott said. “I increased my speed, but I also think I have increased a lot on offspeed and being able to locate.”
Scott said he also could see playing time in the infield and in the outfield at Blue Mountain.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.