As of Sunday, Heartland Community College Hawks baseball players will no longer be able to sport the number 19 on their jersey, as it has been retired under the name of Michael Collins.
When Michael Collins passed April 2, the Bloomington-Normal community immediately recognized his accomplishments, and the Hawks hosted a ceremony in his honor.
The CornBelter’s CornCrib stadium held about 200 people paying their respects Sunday, prior to the Heartland Hawks’ baseball game against John Wood Community College.
Collins played on the Hawks as a student at Heartland and was in a starter position his sophomore year.
“In his two years at Heartland, Michael was everything we could want and expect an athlete to be,” Matt Dixon, master of ceremonies, said.
“Michael had the unique ability to put a smile on everyone’s face, he was quick-witted with a joke and he was as tough as a competitor as anyone we’ve ever seen at Heartland. No one cared more for his teammates and no one wanted to win more than MC did.”
The ceremony began with a moment of silence for Collins, followed by the hanging of a banner which will be displayed at all Hawks home games.
Dixon then played a video of Collins’ famous final home run at the NJCAA world series in May 2012 in Eden, Okla.
Collins’ parents, Jim and Kelly, his brother Jimmy, and cousin John brought out Collins’ framed jersey to home plate to officially retire number 19 from the Hawks.
“He certainly loved being a Heartland Hawk,” Jim Collins said. “This may sound a little selfish, but I also know he would really love the fact that no one is ever going to wear number 19 here again.”
Collins’ father thanked the audience and everyone at Heartland for the tribute. Several members of the Collins family displayed their support in the upper box of the field by wearing matching white shirts with Michael Collins’ name on them.
The Pay It Forward campaign, which was originally started in honor of Michael Collins, has traveled across the country and overseas, Dixon said.
“People all over the world are initiating simple acts of kindness towards others, and to think this all started because of Michael’s influence in life as well as his generous gifts,” he said.
Jim Collins concluded the ceremony by stating the three things that he believes Michael would have said.
“First of all, I think he would want us to get to know Jesus,” he said.
“Secondly, I know he would want the Hawks to win … But most importantly, if Michael were here today, he would want us to smile, and have fun.”