Darryl Collins is a 17-year old Netherlands native with a storied family history in the sport. Born in Spijkenisse, Netherlands, his grandfather was a star of Dutch baseball and has been coaching in the Netherlands for years since. In the summer of 2018, Collins penned his first chapter in the family’s baseball archives.
In the summer of 2017, at age 15, Collins began spending time on the bench for Neptunus Curacao, Holland’s top team since 2013. He stepped in on two occasions during regular season play, and in three post-season games for the team, but otherwise remained seated. He shared that bench time with his grandfather Jan, who is the team’s 1st base coach these days.
It wasn’t much but it was enough to earn the kid his own spot on their 2018 roster. This was Collins’ first full season in the Dutch major leagues and it will be his last, at least for the time being. Darryl played in about half of the regular season games spending much of his away time with the U-18 Dutch National Team. By August, he had not only won the respect and hearts of the locals, he’d penned his first MLB contract.
Directly following the 2018 season Collins reported to the Kansas City Royals spring training facilities in Arizona for instructional leagues. Before he boarded the plane, EBSM caught up with him in the halls of Sportpark Pioniers, where he was supporting teammates at the WBSC Europe Super6 tournament. There he filled us in on the details of the storybook season that definitely helped define his 16th year as sweet.
We asked Collins to tell us how the contract with the Royals came about.
“The first time I saw Nick Leto was in May of this year. I had a good week against HWAC and he was telling me, ‘I want to see you again.’ The next time I saw him was in Italy for the U-18 European Championship, a great tournament. He was keeping an eye on me.”
Leto told EBSM, “Darryl comes from a great family, a very good home. He has really good bloodlines and family history in the game.”
At that July tournament, Collins gave quite the scout-worthy performance. The Dutch national team would win the Cup, in large part, thanks to his performance throughout the week.
While perfect on the field, with 4 putouts throughout the tournament, at the plate Collins hit .571 over 5 games and 21 at bats. He finished with 8 runs and 12 hits including 3 doubles, 2 triples and a homerun bringing around 11 for a .920 slugging percentage and a .567 On Base Percentage (OBP).
For the tournament he placed 3rd on the batting average leader board, 1st in hits, total bases and RBIs. For Team Netherlands he was 1st in slugging, 3rd in OBP, 5th in runs scored and 1st in doubles, triples and homeruns. He also topped the games played and games started charts.
Digging deeper into his stats, Collins’ average against lefties was .667, top of the charts once again by nearly .300. Righties faired no better with his average sitting at .438 when they faced off. He was perfect in reaching percentage when the leadoff hitter. His average with 2 outs was .556 and he batted in 7, tops for the team, when the scenario presented on the field. Bases empty, he hit .750. With runners in scoring position, he was hitting .476.
Next was the Colt World Series in August where Darryl, once again, let his star shine. The Netherlands entered the tournament as defending champions but would lose in the final game in 2018. Still, Collins’ individual performance was strong. He maintained a batting average of .455 over 3 games and 12 plate appearances. In one game he stepped up to bat 4 times and walked away 1 hit shy of the cycle with a single, double and triple plus 2 runs and an RBI on the day.
Darryl next saw Leto at the series against Amsterdam. By this time, the regular season was coming to a close. Collins had maintained a perfect fielding percentage throughout the regular season and would maintain it through to the end of the championship where he would, once again, be on the winning bench. He finished the regular season hitting .348 with a .435 slugging percentage and a .407 OBP.
Looking at his numbers you might assume he’s a slugger but his first homerun of the season, and his career in the Dutch League, didn’t come until the final game of regular season play during extra innings. It was the game-winning hit.
He finished the season 5th in the league in slugging percentage, with just one triple besides for extra base hits. Combine this knowledge with his numbers against lefties, as well as his seemingly impervious nature regarding who is on base and how many outs there are when he is holding a bat, and what you get is a hitter that’s a threat most bullpen managers aren’t happy to see coming.
It was at that meeting in Amsterdam that Collins says the offer was made and accepted. On August 26, 2018, 20 days before his 17th birthday, Darryl became a Kansas City Royal.
EBSM spoke with Nick Leto, Manager of Arizona Operations for the Royals, about his reasons for the signing.
“Darryl has been a big time performer. He plays a team game with a winner style and he’s a great teammate. He’s aggressive on the bases, knows how to situation-hit and understands situations in games. Darryl is an aggressive player who puts the ball in play. He hunts pitches and has really good strike zone recognition. He performed for Neptunus, performed for the national team. In addition to being a really serious, intentional player Collins has a deep passion for the game. With the family support he has, work ethic and talent, we feel he has a chance to be an everyday major leaguer.”
We asked Collins about how this turn in his career factors into other areas of his life.
Are you finished with school?
No. They gave me the option to go to school for three hours in the week but I don’t know if I’m going to do that. I will see.
What are you most excited about, in terms of the opportunity?
The weather, for sure (he says with a smile). It was always a dream for me to play in the States so that’s what I like the most.
Have you been to the States before?
Yes, two times for the Colt World Series, this year and last. This year it was in Marion, Illinois. Last year it was in Lafayette, Indiana. Last year we won the tournament but this year we didn’t.
What do you enjoy the most about playing baseball?
I think the people around me. Yeah, it’s a beautiful sport.
Do you have a favorite position?
I think center field. You are the leader. You have a great view on the field. I think it’s easier than left field or right field. That’s what I think.
You have a lot of extra ground to cover too though.
Yeah, well, that’s no problem for me so it’s great.
Do you play other positions?
I also play infield but my main position is outfield.
On the infield did you also play shortstop?
Yeah, a lot of years, but the last time was five years ago. Last year I played 3rd base also and 1st base.
I asked about short because of the answer you gave about center. You said you liked being the leader on the field which is sort of a shortstop answer.
Yeah, in early years I had been a shortstop.
Do you know any of the other guys that are already in the Royals system like Marten Gasparini?
Yeah, I know some players that have been there. Some that are still there. I asked them how it is so I’m prepared to go. I have a lot of team players that have also been in the system, like Dwayne Kemp and Stijn van der Meer.
Do you have some goals in mind, in terms of your time in the MLB?
I have some goals. Of course, playing in the big leagues. I think that’s everybody’s dream when they play baseball, but yeah, I think my goal for the next year is to go and maybe get a level higher. Also, the experience.
Are there aspects of the training you think you’re going to grow from?
Maybe, I think, I will get faster, I think. Stronger. I think, those things.
Why is playing in America more enticing to you than staying here and playing?
Now I’m playing at the highest level of The Netherlands so if I want to make a bigger step I have to go to the States. I can’t stay here.
Nominated Sportsman of the Year by RTV Rijnmond, a local broadcast network in The Netherlands, Darryl will find out days before reporting to spring training whether he’s their pick for 2018.
Winner or not, his future, at least for the time being, has been handled by the Royals. Leto told EBSM, “He’s heading to the Dominican for a month here soon, then to Surprise for spring training in March. He’ll be in Arizona for extended spring training in April going forward, and then we’ll see.”
And see we shall. To keep track of where Collins’ journey leads him, or to track any of your favorite Europeans as they work through America's leagues, be sure to read our In The MLB series which posts monthly from opening day of spring training through the final pitch in the World Series each year.