Hollins feeling right at home
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Hollins feeling right at home

Aug 8, 2017

BATAVIA — Just a week ago, Batavia Muckdogs third baseman David “Bubba” Hollins was in the process of preparing for his senior season at St. Bonaventure. It was to be one more collegiate season before Hollins further continued his pursuit of a professional career.

That pursuit, however, came quicker than expected and when Hollins got the call from the Miami Marlins, he was quick to jump at the opportunity. Now his professional baseball career is underway, and it is not that far from home.

“I was so excited and as soon as I got that phone call I was ready to go,” Hollins said.

Hollins is a 2014 graduate of Orchard Park High School, less than an hour away from Dwyer Stadium, where he was a two-time All-New York State selection in Class AA.

However, the story for Bubba Hollins doesn’t begin and end there.

“Just the opportunity to play here is just awesome,” Hollins said. “Getting this chance to play, to be so close to home, I’m just excited to be here. I never thought I would be this close to home. I was getting ready for my senior year in college and now I’m getting the chance to play pro ball and chase the dream.”

Hollins is the son of longtime Major League Baseball player Dave Hollins, who put together a solid 12-year MLB career with a variety of teams, most notably the Philadelphia Phillies in the early-to-mid-1990s. Yet to go along with that, Bubba Hollins’ foray into professional baseball has another, even more, unique connection.

After Dave Hollins retired from professional baseball in 2002, he would eventually become a coach, where in 2005 he was the hitting coach for the Binghamton Mets, the Double-A affiliate of the parent New York team. While the hitting coach with Binghamton, Hollins worked with a strong, left-handed power hitter named Mike Jacobs.

Now Jacobs is Bubba Hollins’ first professional manager with the Muckdogs. And it certainly wasn’t a passing acquaintance either, as both Bubba Hollins and Jacobs remember those days with the Mets’ minor league organization fondly as the younger Hollins was spending more time with his father with the club than he did at a younger age when he was still a player.

“When he was still playing I was pretty young but I would be at the games with my mom,” Bubba Hollins said. “When he started coaching I started to go on road trips with him and I really got to be around the guys, that’s where I got to be with Mike Jacobs, he was my favorite player growing up and now it’s unbelievable that he’s managing me. It’s pretty cool.”

It’s now a little surreal that the two have found themselves back together, in Batavia nonetheless, as both are in the infancies of the next stages of their careers [Jacobs is in his first season as a professional manager].

“It’s pretty cool, I was really close to his dad, he was my hitting coach in ‘05,” Jacobs said. “He [Bubba] used to follow me around, we’d go out to dinner together, hang out on the bus. So when I heard we signed him I got really excited. Just the background that he comes from, the pedigree with his dad — he was a really good ballplayer, he played the game the right way and so far that’s what you see in Bubba.”

Bubba Hollins, who drew the attention of the Marlins this summer while working out at their facilities in Jupiter, Fla., was originally drafted out of Orchard Park in the 35th round of the Major League Draft by the Detroit Tigers in 2014. Hollins was a first-team all-state Class AA selection by the New York State Sportswriters at shortstop after he hit .517 in 60 at-bats, with four home runs and 30 RBIs. At the time he was the first Orchard Park player drafted out of high school since Kyle Hoppy in 2009, who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 28th round.

Despite the selection, Hollins — who didn’t have a plethora of Division I looks out of high school — chose to spend the next two seasons at St. Petersburg College in Florida, a junior college.

“At the time I knew that they [Tigers] still wanted to see me mature anyway, so they were basically telling me to go and play college ball,” Hollins said.

During his sophomore season at St. Petersburg, Hollins his .344 with nine doubles, nine home runs, 45 runs scored and 40 runs batted in, which would eventually lead to his signing to play D-I ball with the Bonnies. Hollins turned it on in his second season at St. Petersburg after he batted .262 with 24 RBIs in 40 games as a freshman.

In his lone season with St. Bonaventure, Hollins earned an All-Atlantic 10 second-team selection after hitting .290 with eight home runs, while he tied for the team lead with 31 RBIs. During A-10 play, Hollins hit .304 with a .411 on-base percentage while helping the Bonnies to a 26-22 overall record, including a 15-8 mark in conference games. In all, he started 47 of the team’s 48 games at third base.

“It’s not like I had this idea to come back home,” Hollins said. “I really enjoyed the South, the nice weather, the competition. It was nice to come home but it wasn’t the most important thing.”

Hollins had to officially forego his final collegiate season when he signed his contract with the Marlins last week.

“Bubba is an extremely hard worker and a great teammate. He has always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and St. Bonaventure baseball is very happy for him,” Bonnies head coach Larry Sudbrook said in a press release from St. Bonaventure. “We would’ve loved to have had him back, but we certainly respect him taking a shot at the dream and we wish him the best.”

Hollins became the fifth St. Bonaventure player to currently be signed to a professional contact, while he leaves the Olean school owning a bit of history — in a win over Davidson in March, Hollins tied a pair of St. Bonaventure records when he went 6-for-6 with eight RBIs.

“He’s got a really quick, short swing and he’s looked good at third base but he’s got an advanced knowledge just because of growing up in the clubhouse, growing up around the game with his dad,” Jacobs said of what he’s seen from the younger Hollins so far. “He just sees the game differently than other players his age and that will ultimately help him in the long run.”

Bubba Hollins will definitely have some relatively big shoes to follow in terms of his old man, who graduated from Orchard Park High School in 1984 and went on to a stellar career at the University of South Carolina.

Dave Hollins was a 6th round pick in 1987 by the San Diego Padres and he was eventually grabbed by the Phillies in the Rule-5 draft after the 1989 campaign; Hollins would play for the Phillies through 1995 and would then have stints with the Red Sox, Twins, Mariners, Angels, Blue Jays, Indians and one final shortened year in Philadelphia.

Dave Hollins hit .262 with 112 home runs and 482 RBIs in his MLB career, while he was on the Phillies’ NL pennant-winning team in 1993, the same year he earned his lone All-Star selection.

There is a lot to this day that Bubba Hollins takes from being around his father all those years in pro ball; a lot that most players his age don’t have the benefit of having.

“There’s a lot you learn, just being around the guys like that,” Bubba Hollins said. “They’re not high school and college guys, I’m nine or ten years old and I’m around grown men, you really learn how to act in the clubhouse, what to say and not to say; you just have to be a professional and it was really cool for me.”

On Sunday afternoon, Bubba Hollins picked up his first two career professional hits in Batavia’s 3-2 loss to West Virginia. Three days before, he picked up his first career run batted in against Williamsport.

Minor steps in what he hopes to be a major career, but right now Bubba Hollins knows he still has a lot to learn. And he has the best guidance a young professional could have.

“He just says it’s a grind,” Bubba Hollins says of his dad. “He’s been telling me that since I was a kid. It’s a different element now, it’s time to just work your way up and work a day at a time and just focus on working in the moment and enjoying it.”

Jacobs and Bubba Hollins now have an interesting relationship as manager and player, one that most won’t have in the professional ranks with someone that have known in the manner that these two do, but it has been nothing but professional.

“We have a good relationship,” Jacobs said. “It’s one of those things where off the field we can joke about that stuff and it’s great but he understands that you have to try and separate that as much as you can. I think we’re both really respectful of that. I love him to death but at the same time I’m trying to teach him to get better and hopefully I can do that and help him out with his career. At the end of the day I love watching him play baseball.”

By Nate Rider, The Daily News

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