COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was Friday night at a mall, Polaris Fashion Place, and 18-year-old Cam Collier wasn’t there to hang out with friends or go shopping like many teenagers might with a winter weekend just getting started.
Instead, Collier was among the headliners on the northern leg of Reds Caravan.
“We were joking earlier that he should be a senior in high school right now,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said.
Collier was the 18th overall selection in the 2022 Draft after the third baseman graduated early from high school in Georgia. He attended Chipola Junior College in Florida to be reclassified for Draft eligibility. When he signed in July, he received a $5 million bonus, well above the $3.659 million slot value for the 18th pick.
Ranked this week as the No. 69 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, Collier is still in the early stages of his pro career. The Reds featured more talent from their player development system on this year’s caravan legs, and Collier is the youngest on the road. He’s been getting a smaller taste of the exposure he would get in the big leagues.
“It’s been amazing to meet all the fans that would be cheering you on if you make it to that park. It’s fun building a relationship with them,” Collier said.
Hundreds of fans turned out in Columbus to meet the Reds’ contingent that included Collier, Krall, broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman, Reds Hall of Famer Chris Sabo, Major League infielder Alejo Lopez, Minor League infielder Tyler Callihan, broadcaster Jim Day and mascot Gapper. Following a Q&A session emceed by Day, fans lined up for autographs.
Before reaching Columbus, the group spent Friday traveling around southeast Ohio and visited Peebles, Athens, Lancaster and Zanesville. On Saturday, they were scheduled to head west to Lima and Dayton.
“To be able to talk with them and create relationships has been amazing,” Collier said of his colleagues.
“Good kid. He’s been nice to hang around with,” Krall said of Collier. “I didn’t know about his love of comic books. He’s very quiet. It’s been nice to get to know him a little bit here and there.”
Collier was also on hand Thursday in Erlanger, Ky., when the Reds Community Fund and St. Elizabeth Healthcare donated $45,000 worth of baseball and softball equipment to 19 high school baseball and softball teams and organizations from Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
“I know how important that is. With my high school, we needed that, too. Being able to be there and support that was amazing,” Collier said.
On the field last season, the lefty-hitting Collier played nine games for the organization in the Arizona Complex League. He batted .370 with a 1.144 OPS, two home runs and four RBIs. After the season, he participated in instructional league.
“It was really good,” Krall said. “Let’s just take this one day at a time with him and let him continue to develop, but he’s got a lot of talent and a lot of tools. It’s just continuing to make him into a quality Major League player.”
The son of former Major League player Lou Collier, Cam Collier felt prepared for his first taste of pro ball, but he still had to adjust to a higher level of play than previously experienced.
“It’s a different thing,” Collier said. “It’s what my Dad told me: It’s longer nine-inning games, better competition and playing against grown men. It’s just a faster pace of game.”
Collier got a taste of being away from home during junior college and a brief stint in the Cape Cod League. But while many kids his age are still living at home, he is growing up as a professional athlete and getting used to it.
“I think the summer circuit trained me for this, because I was away from my family a lot. But it still sucks not being around my family, my sisters and everything,” Collier said. “They know that I’m chasing my dream, and they support me all the way. They come and see me. It’s been hard, but it’s worth it.”