by: David Petschenko
#MCstrong was trending Tuesday night at the Corn Crib as the Normal CornBelters hosted a tribute game to honor Michael Collins, a former ISU student and Heartland Hawk who was killed by a drunk driver in the spring.
As I walked from my car in the back of a packed parking lot, I could feel the energy coming from all those around me who knew Michael and I knew right then it was going to be a special night. The time leading up to the first pitch was spent remembering him for his accomplishments on and off the baseball field.
Former Normal West and Heartland Hawk teammates and parents filled the seats to show support and raise money for the Michael Collins Foundation. T-shirts of all different colors worn by people of all different backgrounds professed their profound love and admiration for a young man with an extremely bright future who was taken much too soon.
“There’s not a single day I’ve gone through without thinking about him,” said Danielle Sanetra, former classmate and friend of Michael, “It’s still something that just isn’t quite understood.”
It’s unfortunate that not everybody had the honor of meeting Michael, but his death holds a special place in the hearts of ISU students and faculty.
Each member of the CornBelters donned a Heartland Hawks jersey with Collins’ number 19 on the back and a special seat behind the Heartland 3rd base dugout has been dedicated to him.
A moment of silence was had before the National Anthem and then Michael’s favorite words “Play Ball” were uttered as Cullen Babin took to the mound to face the top of the Schaumburg order. The Belters gave up 2 in the 7th, but wouldn’t let that spoil the evening as they came back to score 3 in the bottom of the 8th and win 7-4.
Fireworks were set off after the final out to celebrate not only the CornBelters franchise record 7th win in a row, but also to celebrate the extraordinary life of Michael Collins. It’s truly amazing how many lives he has touched because of such a tragic event.