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Terry Collins remembers Dodgers roots on eve on NLDS matchup

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Mets manager Terry Collins is in the postseason for the first time in his 11 seasons as a major league manager. So it's only fitting that his first playoff game is against the Dodgers, the organization where it all began as a coach for the baseball lifer.

"I'm sitting in this chair because of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Bill Schweppe who was our minor league director when I was a player here," Collins said before workouts at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

Collins was an infielder drafted by the Pirates in 1971, and after three seasons in their system moved on to the Dodgers, where he played for four more seasons, all in Triple-A Albuquerque. After playing just 11 games in 1980 for Albuquerque, Collins got his first managerial job, leading Class-A Lodi in the California League in 1981.

"For some unknown reason, [Schweppe] liked me. He should have released me a dozen times and he kept me around, gave me my first job in managing the minor leagues," Collins said. "So when you talk about what I learned, I learned baseball. I learned Dodger baseball.

"And at a time when you can walk out on the field in Spring Training and you had Drysdale, and Koufax, and Maury Wills, and Wes Parker, and Roy Campanella was talking after dinner at night. You talk about learning baseball and learning the history of the game, I spent a little time in that training camp. So I learned everything here."

Collins led Lodi to a Cal League title in his first season, then moved up in the Dodgers system, from Vero Beach to San Antonio, followed by five years managing Triple-A Albuquerque from 1983-88. He won the Pacific Coast League title in 1987 and was named Sporting News Manager of the Year.

After major league managing stints with the Astros and Angels, Collins rejoined the Dodgers system in 2002, when he was the minor league field coordinator for three years, then the director of player development in 2005-2006.

It was Collins' job to assign 2006 first-round pick Clayton Kershaw his first professional destination, in the Gulf Coast League in Florida.

"Rick Honeycutt was my minor league pitching coordinator at the time," Collins recalled. "And Rick was throwing, and I was over on one of the other fields watching something. When I was done, I was walking and I saw Rick walking over, and he stopped and said have you seen this Kershaw guy? And I said no, not yet. He went, oh, wow. Turned around and walked away."

Collins had nothing but praise for Kershaw, the Dodgers' Game 1 starter.

"So am I surprised by what [Kershaw]'s done? No. If you know him, you get to know him, you know what kind of a person he is, and he's not going to let anything get in the way of him being great," Collins said. "His relationship with Sandy, second to none. I think he's got that same competitive attitude that Sandy had, and we've seen it on TV. When he takes the ball he wants to finish what he starts. So I'm not surprised that he's as good as he is, no."