Who’s Who Among Students is a national award that recognizes students who excel in scholastic achievement. At Oklahoma Christian University, 125 students reached the Who’s Who list. In an upper level journalism class, students interviewed 13 names off of the list.
While pitching has always been important to Oklahoma Christian University baseball player Jake Collins, he said his final season may prove the most meaningful. In order to return to the pitching mound this spring, the senior had to undergo five major surgeries after Thoracic Outlet Syndrome became a part of his life.
“To say Jake is brave and tough would be an extreme understatement,” Collin’s teammate and roommate senior Jake Baxter said. “He has gone through some things in the past year that few people have gone through in their entire lives. It takes a special person to still have the willpower to do what he is doing every day and Jake is just that.”
Collins, a sport and wellness major, is from Latta, OK — a small town near Ada. In high school, Collins was selected to the Oklahoma Baseball Coaches Association small school All-State team his senior year. He signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Eastern Oklahoma Junior College, where he spent two years before transferring to Oklahoma Christian to continue his baseball career.
Along with being a member of the varsity baseball team, Collins is an avid member in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is now a mainstay in the Eagles pitching rotation and said he is looking to have a successful senior year before looking into coaching.
Pitching his senior season looked uncertain, however, after January 2016, when Collins said he began to feel something very wrong in his left arm.
“When it got really cold, I would lose feeling and color in my pitching arm and began to feel really weak on my left side,” Collins said. “For a few weeks I thought it was just a phase or maybe I was dehydrated or low on vitamins or something simple like that.”
After being struck by a ball in the left hand during in a game, however, Collins scheduled an appointment in Ada, where the doctor found a blood clot in Collin’s arm.
He was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and the first rib are compressed. The doctor explained that blood clots were continuing to form as Collin’s first rib was pinching his blood vessels.
After being diagnosed, Collins was sent into his first surgery. Within one week of each other, he had two separate operations, one to remove the blood clot and the next to remove the first rib, which was replaced with a medical graft.
After two more surgeries to remove blood clots, the doctors realized the graft was causing more clots, so they removed the graft in the fall of 2016 and replaced it with a vein from his leg.
“The toughness, grit and perseverance that young man has shown in the past year is unmatchable by anyone I have ever met,” Baxter said. “Despite his medical conditions, Jake is an excellent pitcher and a competitor we will lean on to be a very big part of our team. This journey has brought me so close to Jake and our bond will never be broken.”
Collins has currently pitched 21.1 innings for the Eagles, boasting a 2.11 ERA. He has given up only 13 hits and managed 11 strikeouts during his time on the mound.
Collins said he will never forget this journey and how it has made him the person he is today.
“I will certainly never lose sight of the grace God has shown me in the past year and the peace of mind He gave me throughout the process,” Collins said. “I do not take any days for granted and I am thankful every day that I still get to play the game I love.”