LINKS
2012-05-09 / Sports

Monacan High’s McCollum shines on diamond and ice

By Fred Jeter
CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Kevin McCollum, who led the U-16AA Royals in goals and assists this past season, also helped Monacan’s Chiefs in a comeback this year. 
Ash Daniel /Chesterfield Observer Kevin McCollum, who led the U-16AA Royals in goals and assists this past season, also helped Monacan’s Chiefs in a comeback this year. Ash Daniel /Chesterfield Observer Kevin McCollum swings a mean stick.

Make that sticks … plural.

The Monacan High junior is dangerous with a baseball bat and just as menacing when he’s gripping his hockey war club for the Richmond Royals.

First, the “K-Mac” diamond report:

The second baseman earned second-team, All-Dominion District honors last spring and is a guiding light in this year’s spirited turnaround.

“We’ve got a good core group of hardworking kids who believe in what we’re doing,” said Monacan coach Gerry Mann.

“Kevin is one who has invested the most. Like, I’ll come out here on the weekend to cut the grass and there he is, looking for more practice.”

McCollum’s hitting and steady glove have helped Monacan’s Chiefs reach a 9-5 overall, 5-3 District record entering this week.

Monacan sits in third place behind James River and Cosby in arguably the state’s most challenging district.

It wasn’t many moons ago that Monacan was the heavy hitter in Dominion hardball. The Chiefs were State AAA champs in 2006; then, like some curse from nowhere, famine struck.

From 2008 through 2011, the Smoketree subdivision squad was 22-55-1 overall, 14- 35-1 in the Dominion.

Coaching changes ensued.

Mann, a native Californian who played baseball at William & Mary, took over in 2010 and began planting a few seeds of success.

Four sophomores started last year: McCollum, third sacker Corey Ambers, first baseman/ pitcher Jordan Staib and outfielder Alex Mullins.

“We’ve got a lot of returnees and a lot of camaraderie,” said McCollum “It’s an improved attitude … there’s no one on the team that doesn’t fit.”

McCollum is an unusual blend of the relative serenity of baseball and the bloody-lipped ice hockey world.

“It is a lot different … but it gives me a nice break,” said McCollum.

“I love both … hockey is my favorite sport in hockey season; baseball is my favorite in baseball season. They’re equal fun.”

McCollum led the U-16AA Royals in goals and assists this past season as the center and captain for coach Scott Gruhl, former Richmond Renegades coach.

The Royals train out of Ice Zone in Chesterfield and Skate Nation in Short Pump and skate in a far-flung league with foes mostly from the Washington, D.C., area.

The son of Alice and John McCollum followed his brother, Michael, to both diamond and ice rink.

“My father never really got the chance to play organized hockey; he made sure my brother and I got to,” said McCollum, who started hockey at age 5.

Meanwhile, he was a many-times all-star in the Huguenot Little League.

Older brother Michael was a freshman junior varsity in 2006, the year Monacan won States with a 9-8 win over Oakton.

The Dominion District might be re-named the Dominant District for baseball.

“The best district around here,” says Mann.

Clover Hill won States in ’94 and James River took top honors in ’07 and ’08. Midlothian won AA States in ’85.

Meanwhile upstart Cosby has emerged as an annual state-contending juggernaut. Mann hinted Monacan, during hard times, has lost athletes to rival schools via transfer route.

“You really can’t blame a kid for wanting to go to the new school … or one that’s winning more,” said Mann. “It’s easy to slide on over there.”

He adds:

“But let me say this: I’m extremely happy with the kids we have left.”

Mann would agree that if you listen closely, that distant drumbeat you hear is his Chiefs, marching the comeback trail.

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