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Collins proud of Australian roots

Collins proud of Australian roots

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Normally, San Diego catcher Michael Collins wouldn't take much issue with manager Bud Black's chosen form of light-hearted punishment for minor clubhouse infractions -- a modest helping of Vegemite.

But Collins, a native Australian who is a fan of Vegemite, wouldn't go as far to say that the slab Black has players -- and even some coaches -- swallow, a glob stuck to a tongue depressor, is his idea of a treat.

"I would still call it a punishment," Collins said. "I don't think any Australian would like to eat a tablespoon of Vegemite like they do here. You want to spread a little over some toast and use it sparingly. I wouldn't dive right in like peanut butter."

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Collins, 25, is in his first Major League camp with the Padres. He signed with the team last March and nearly the entire season with Double-A San Antonio. Collins has a little history with Black, having spent eight seasons in the Angels' organization.

"Mike does some good things, I like the rapport he has with pitchers and he does a nice job calling a game and blocking as well," Black said. "And I like the way he swings the bat."

Collins won't turn 26 until July, but will be entering his 10th professional season. That's right: Collins signed his first professional contract with the Angels when he was just 16 years old.

"It's kind of funny, at the time I was 16, 17, I felt I could handle anything, like there was nothing I couldn't do," Collins said Saturday. "Looking back, seeing how things worked, I was a little crazy. I'm sure people were like, 'This guy is really young ... I wonder what he's doing here.'"

Collins signed with the Angels in 2001, shortly before Major League Baseball started a program in Australia for players who had signed professional contracts and those who profiled as players who eventually would sign.

"It was a Spring Training type of schedule, with schooling included," Collins said. "It was an opportunity for young Australians to get an idea and a feel for how professional baseball will work."

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Collins isn't regretful that he missed out on the program. He feels that jumping head first into professional baseball was the right thing for him.

"I don't know if I missed it. Coming here was a huge experience," he said. "I think it's a good development approach because sometimes Australians are younger and haven't had as much baseball experience as American high school players. It's a good introduction."

Playing professionally in the United States hasn't precluded Collins from representing his home county. He played on both World Baseball Classic teams, including the one a year ago that upset Mexico. He also played on a World Cup team in 2007.

The Padres have had something of a history with Australian-born players since Black's first season as manager in 2007. Pitcher Adrian Burnside and outfielders Chris Snelling and Justin Huber are a few.

Collins said he would like nothing more than to see the sport grow in Australia, though he's realistic of the pecking order.

"They're trying. But it's never going to be the No. 1 sport in the country," Collins said. "But Major League Baseball is working on putting a league together where there will be teams in six major cities, playing 3-4 games a week."

Collins, who is 3-for-6 this spring with a double, will likely begin the season back at San Antonio because of the catching depth in the system and because Dusty Ryan and Chris Stewart will be with Triple-A Portland.

"As long as I've got a uniform, things are going pretty well," Collins said. "Obviously, you would love to get to the next level but you can only control what you can control."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }