Sherron Collins, whose Kansas basketball jersey No. 4 hangs in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse, showed about 1,500 fans he’s pretty proficient in another sport — softball — on Saturday afternoon at sweltering T-Bones Stadium.
Collins, a 5-foot-11, 220-or-so pound dynamo — he starred in baseball, basketball and football at Chicago’s Crane High School — blasted three home runs and a single and knocked in seven runs during Frank Mason’s Charity Softball Game to benefit Children’s Mercy Kansas City and the National Youth Foundation.
“I love baseball, almost like I love basketball,” said the 31-year-old Collins, who said it was “amazing” getting a chance to play in former KU guard Mason’s softball game. Collins' team won the four-inning contest, 28-26. “I just couldn’t play both of them (in college). I still hold a couple of records in Chicago for strikeouts,” added Collins. He not only hit prodigious homers, but pitched in high school.
“In my day I could,” Collins said of throwing a baseball over 90 mph. “Right now I could probably be clocked at 80 if I get warmed up right.”
Wearing his cap on backwards on a 95-degree day, Collins ripped 10 home runs in 20 swings over a makeshift fence about 200 feet from the plate during the pre-game home-run derby competition.
In a monumental display of power, Collins blasted one of the softball offerings 355 feet. He not only cleared the short fence, but the actual T-Bones Stadium wall. One of his homers in the actual game one-hopped the same wall.
“Just try not to kill the ball, just make contact,” Collins said before the game, asked the secret of hitting. “But I’m going to try to kill it today.”
KU assistant basketball coach Jerrance Howard, who is from Peoria, Ill., remembers hearing about Collins the baseball player during Collins’ high school days. Howard was an assistant at Texas A&M during Collins’ senior year of high school and did not actively recruit the McDonald’s All-American who did not have the Aggies on his list of schools.
“Sherron’s an athlete,” said Howard, who beat out an infield hit in the first inning, pulling up while charging past second toward third on an ensuing base hit. In the third inning Howard spoke to the fans on the P.A. system, waving his arms as the KU fight song played over the loudspeaker.
“I knew that in high school he was a good baseball player and good football player as well,” Howard said of Collins, a member of KU’s 2008 NCAA title hoops team.
“K.T. (KU assistant Kurtis Townsend) and Coach (Bill) Self told me stories of watching him play. Coach and K.T. said he never got hit (in football). He just ran out of bounds (after getting a first down).”
Howard said he was happy to play in the game as a substitute for Self, who has been busy coaching USA Basketball’s under-18 team in Canada.
“You go in a kid’s home (to recruit) and this is what you talk about: ‘Life after Kansas basketball,’” Howard said. “Our guys know when they leave KU we’ll support their causes with them. All our guys, from Mario Chalmers to anybody who comes back, our staff will be there.”
Former Kansas State player Wesley Iwundu of the Orlando Magic and another former K-Stater, Jordan Henriquez, each reached base more than once in Saturday's game.
“I’m excited to be here," Iwundu said before the game. "I had to come out and show some love to Frank. He’s a good friend of mine. My goal is to just hit the ball and run a little bit.”
Former KU wing Travis Releford smashed two home runs and a double. He had his son, T.J., run the bases for him on the homers. Former KU forwards Wayne Simien and Landen Lucas each had multi-hit games as did former KU guard Wayne Selden of the Memphis Grizzlies. Former Duke player Harry Giles of the Kings hit a home run.
The host of the event, Mason, did reach base a couple times. One infield single came after he struck out — the ump giving him a fourth strike. Mason also had the highest hit pop-out of the day, skying the ball to short center field.