In 2016, during the European Championship in Hoofddorp, yours truly met Tim Collins for the first time in person. An American, who is residing in Munich. In Germany, he is well known in the baseball scene, and also in the Netherlands, several people know him because of his fine play-by-play announcing for the Munich-Haar Disciples at his own Youtube channel. But he is also a gifted jazz musician. Time for an interview with this kind and talented guy.
Normally, I merge the answers into a story, but Tim gave such detailed answers, creating a story out of that would not improve it, so for the change, I post in a Q & A format.
DBH – Please tell me how you got into baseball and at what age?
TC – I hated all sports up until age 11, and then for some reason a switch flipped and I became crazy about baseball. So I set up a tarp between two trees, and threw a baseball against it every day for hours.. I would record baseball games on VHS and try to emulate the pitching motions and batting stances of every player I could. I pretty much ate, breathed, and slept baseball during the summer months, and in the winter when it was cold I would take a bat down to the basement and practice my swing.
DBH – Ever had the intention to make it into professional baseball? Perhaps you did. If so, which level did you reach?
TC – Sure, when I was 13 or 14 I thought maybe.. although by the time I was in high school I kind of figured I would be better served focusing on music, which was something that came much more naturally to me than playing sports. I was a good pitcher in high school for a team that made it to the state quarterfinals, and I played one summer of American Legion baseball, which was the highest level I reached. I considered trying to play baseball at Ithaca College (where I studied), but I knew that there was no way to do that and still have the time for practicing and studying music. Music and baseball are very similar that way – you have to really dedicate a lot of time to get to a professional level in either of them, which means that one of them can never be any more than a hobby. So baseball was always my hobby.
DBH – Before you went to Germany, were you a play-by-play announcer already? How did you get to it?
TC – When I was 12 and practicing my swing and pitching motion in front of mirrors and video cameras, I was also pretending to be the announcer. I remember the first time I heard a baseball game on the radio – it completely captivated me. You could hear the crack of the bat, then “that ball is GONE”, timed perfectly with the roar of the crowd – I would get goosebumps all over. In the US, you used to have what was called “Cable access channels” on every cable provider. This meant that basically anyone could drop off a VHS tape and at some point, the cable company would put it on TV. In my town, there was a guy who would go around filming local high school sports and stuff, and so I decided to do it myself with my older sister’s volleyball games. So as a 12 year old I tried to do play-by-play for volleyball, and it would go on TV two weeks later or something.. it wasn’t very good, but it was a start!
Below, an example of Tim’s announcing skills:
DBH – How did you end up in Germany?
TC – My ex-wife is a classical orchestra musician and we relocated to Europe from NYC in 2009. I was a freelancer in NY, so I figured I could do the same here. So far so good.
DBH – Did you contact the Munich-Haar Disciples yourself or did they contact you?
TC – I reached out to them, I had been on their softball team and seen a few Bundesliga games back in 2012. In 2014 I emailed Mitch Stephan (former player for the team) and he answered within 30 seconds saying “yes – let’s do this!”.
DBH – When you go to a big tournament like the European Championship or the European Champions Cup, do you ask for a press accreditation or do you just go and arrange a spot?
TC – For sure you have to get a press accreditation. But even still, you need to get there and figure out how it’s going to work – especially in Europe, there aren’t really a lot of great press boxes. Usually you have to be fine working from some weird angle, like down the third base line.
DBH – Next to a talented play-by-play announcer, you are also a gifted jazz musician. Did you attend a conservatory? Are you classically schooled or more in a modern way?
TC – Thank you. I went to Ithaca College and studied percussion & music education, and then I went to Manhattan School of Music where I really focused on playing jazz vibraphone. Prior to that I was one of those people whose parents forced them to take piano lessons from the age of 6, saying “someday you’ll thank us!” – and they were right. I got into drums around age 6 also, but didn’t really have many formal lessons on it until I got to Ithaca. I should mention that to me learning music and learning play-by-play announcing are basically the same thing. You listen to people whose style you enjoy, and it eventually rubs off on you. When I was 12, I loved Vin Scully as much as I loved Neil Peart.
DBH – How did you get into music? Parents? Friends? By yourself?
TC – Everyone in my family plays an instrument – my dad played piano, banjo, guitar, my sister piano, mom plays piano and my grandparents… my grandmother was a fantastic pianist – she would play Franz Liszt, Chopin, and other difficult pieces. Even up to he passing at the age of 97, she could still play beautifully.
DBH – How many albums did you produce so far?
TC – Hmm let’s see – Live In Concert (2003), Valcour (2007), Fade (2008), Castles & Hilltops (2010), Crazy Cat (2013), Uncertainty (2020) and a new one that will be coming in 2022 that hasn’t been released yet.
DBH – How many musical instruments can you play and which ones?
TC – Haha – well my main instrument is Vibraphone (it’s like a xylophone, but much cooler). Besides that – drums, piano and electric bass are the ones that I play the most. Because of my teaching, I’m also pretty good at ukulele now. Way back in the day at Ithaca, I had to play trumpet, tuba, trombone, sax, clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello and flute because it’s part of the training to be a music teacher in the US. Not that I can play any of those any more today though.
DBH – What is your biggest moment so far when it comes to announcing baseball games?
TC – Oh man – I feel really lucky to have gotten to do some cool things, simply because of the unique niche that being a baseball lover brings here in Europe. Certainly calling the 2016 European Championship was a real blast – especially because it was radio. That was really a lot of fun. In the Bundesliga in Germany I’ve gotten to do several championship clinchers, a no-hitter, some fun walk-offs. I saw a game ending triple play, too. All that stuff I was dreaming about when I was a kid. One of the things that I am really proud of, is that I’ve gotten to do MLB games on DAZN (in German), including parts of the World Series from 2017-2020. It’s not quite the same when you’re sitting in a studio at 2am as it is being in the stadium in Hoofddorp, but it’s still really cool. So I’m thankful for that.
I’d like to thank Tim for taking the time to answer my questions.