The Impact of Baseball Walk-Ons: Former Kentucky State Thorobred Elijah Collins

Since becoming Kentucky State head baseball coach in 2013, Robert Henry has seen his share of student-athletes pass through the program. Arguably, former player Elijah Collins has had the biggest impact as a walk-on as any since Henry’s hiring. Elijah was a young kid from Montana, fresh out of high school, who elected to attend Kentucky State. He reached out to coach Henry to play baseball, but KSU had a full roster as there was no other roster spot open.

Henry encouraged Elijah to seek out an opportunity at another school where he could play earlier in his career, but also gave him the choice to accept a spot on the baseball program as a student manager if he truly wanted to attend Kentucky State University. Within 2-3 weeks of watching him work, Henry stated he went “above and beyond the call of duty as a student manager, so I gave him practice gear and put him on our roster.”

Elijah redshirted his first year and mentally prepared himself for the college game as much he could from the bench. He never complained about a part-time role his freshman and sophomore years. Instead, he continued to work and develop into an excellent defensive center fielder and lead-off hitter. Elijah’s junior year in 2017 was when he truly blossomed into an everyday starter and force in the Thorobreds lineup. He scored 54 runs and stole 33 of 36 bases in helping Kentucky State to it’s first .500 record since the 1980’s.

Elijah had an even bigger surprise in store for the program in 2018. About halfway through the season, the teams pitching staff had a few injuries on the mound that depleted an already undermanned pitching staff. Elijah came to coach Henry and offered to pitch in some midweek games to help keep the weekend top pitchers rested. According to Henry, “He surpassed all my expectations by pitching effectively in relief and then in midweek starts.”

Two performances stood out. Elijah started against 25th ranked Bellarmine University in a midweek game and pitched into the 9th inning, only giving up 4 runs in an eventual walk-off 5-4 loss. Elijah topped that by starting in an elimination game in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Baseball Tournament against Tuskegee. He pitched six innings, giving up 6 hits, 6 walks with 3 hit by pitch, but only gave up 4 runs in a game KSU won 5-4. That victory, along with his play in the outfield, helped send the team on a run to the championship game.

Henry stated “I have had several impact walk-on’s in my 8 years at Kentucky State, but Elijah Collins is truly a special story. His work ethic and unselfishness have helped define the culture of our program and provide an example for our current players to follow.” Elijah is currently back home in Montana after graduating working in his dream job of broadcast journalism, but the school have fond memories of his legacy that he has left at Kentucky State University.

1 comment for “The Impact of Baseball Walk-Ons: Former Kentucky State Thorobred Elijah Collins

  1. Excellent story. I wish Elijah Collins all the best in his professional career. It seems like he has the toughness and smarts to succeed in any endeavor that he puts his mind to do.

    I walked onto two college baseball programs in the early 1970s, Fort Valley State College and Tuskegee Institute. I was fortunate that both Coach J. E. Hawkins and Coach Jim Martin gave me the chance to prove that I belonged on the team. It took hard work to gain the coaches and my teammates’ trust, but I do not regret any aspect of my walk-on journey.

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