The Jet Courier Melbourne Aces will host their first ever Australian Baseball League Championship Series (ABLCS) at the Melbourne Ballpark in a best of three contest against the Brisbane Bandits this weekend. The series following what was a historic regular season by the Aces that saw them finish on top of the ladder with a win-loss record of 26-14 .
Previously, the Aces had been perenial cellar dwellers, having only made the postseason twice, which included the 1-2 Championship Series defeat in the 2012 postseason at the hands of the Perth Heat.
One of the key reasons behind the drastic turnaround from the Aces has been the performances by import players, both on the mound and at the plate. Among them, 22-year-old outfielder Roman Collins who leads an Aces line-up that has proved damaging for the better part of the season.
After what was an impressive college career that saw Collins earn a number of accolades including the National College Junior Athletic Association Division II Player of the Year and All-American honours, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals at pick 159 of the 2015 draft. Within the Royals system Collins has spent a season with the Idaho Falls Chukars, before playing games for both the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Lexington Legends in 2016.
Collins has undoubtedly had a strong season in Aces colours, finishing with 49 hits, 22 RBIs and a .336 batting average. Additionally, he is ranked third in the league for hits, batting average and total bases, earning himself a spot in the world all-star team.
Reflecting on his performance this season, Collins says:
"I think I did pretty well, I definitely got a lot better than I was at the beginning of the season".
"I'm just glad I was able to do what I did for the team and get us to this point, just got to finish the job now."
He also believes the ABL lived up to what he was expecting it to be:
"I'm having a great time out here, I'm glad I got to be able to travel around the country, see all the big cities".
"The baseball is great, definitely think I got a lot out of it as far as work goes".
"It's been great, just got to finish it off with a Championship".
This is not the first time Collins has played in a championship series, most recently in 2015 after playing for the Idaho Falls Chukars in the Pioneer League Championship Series during his rookie season for the Royals. However, the Chukars fell short in the three game series, losing the series 2-1. On whether or not he learnt something from the series that could be helpful this time around, Collins states:
"The baseball is a lot different, every pitch matters, every play matters a lot more than during the regular season".
"This is a totally different league so I don't know what to expect but I'm going to be ready for anything".
Throughout the season, the Aces have been the home to a number of current and former players from the Royals organisation and system. For Collins, he has a familiar face playing alongside him in the Aces outfield having played his rookie season in the Royals system with Cody Jones at the Idaho Falls Chukars, the pair were also drafted just thirty picks apart from one another in the 2015 draft (Collins pick 159 and Jones pick 189).
Commenting on Jones, Collins said:
"He's great, he covers a crapload of ground, he's got a great arm from the outfield, definitely keeps guys off second base and third base".
"It's definitely a plus to have a guy like him out there next to me".
In the usual affair, players return to the United States for spring training following the end of their respective side's season. For Collins, he will return to the Kansas City Royals organisation after the ABLCS. There he hopes to work his way up the system, after finishing the year at the Lexington Legends.
"Obviously my major goal is to play in the big leagues, it has been a dream of mine since I was little. I just got to show up every day and work hard and try to get better day to day and work my way up the system."
Along with players, fans and all those involved with the Aces organisation, Collins is looking forward to the opportunity to have the Aces claim their first ever ABL Championship and Claxton Shield this weekend against the Brisbane Bandits.
"It's what we came here to do, just having a chance to finish the job is great".
Tickets to the Australian Baseball League Champions series are currently ON SALE NOW.
- Game 1 // Friday 10 February // 7.30PM
- Game 2 // Saturday 11 February // 6.30PM
- Game 3 // Sunday 12 February // 2.30PM (if required)
Want to watch the ABLCS in style? With packages starting from just $100 with no minimum numbers required, our VIP packages include a fully catered ballpark menu PLUS your own personal OPEN BAR. Give the team a call on (03) 8360 9371.