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COLLINS WEARS FEELINGS FOR LEYLAND ON HIS SLEEVE

There are bits and pieces of Terry Collins' heart scattered throughout baseball.

North AmeriCare Park holds one of them. The former Buffalo Bisons manager left part of himself there when his 1990 team lost a one-game playoff for the American Association East title in an 18-inning thriller. That game, still the most dramatic in Bisons' history, forever took a piece of Collins' heart.

There's a piece left in Pittsburgh, where he got his first taste of major league action as a coach with the Pirates, and a part in Houston, where he got his first big league manager's job.

Anaheim is his home now and the Angels are his professional life, but Collins on Tuesday said his heart was with Florida and Marlins manager Jim Leyland in the just concluded World Series.

"I'm an American Leaguer now, but my heart was in their corner of that dugout with those guys," Collins said. "When I went up to Pittsburgh (1992), Jim showed me what it takes to manage in the bigs and then he let me watch and listen while he did his job. That was a great learning experience for me.

"It's all about how you treat people. I learned a lot of that from Jim."

That was the message Collins was spreading Tuesday in day-long meetings in Buffalo. He was brought in by the Bisons and their parent company, Rich Products, to give motivational speeches to some of the company's personnel, but along the way he managed to sneak in a little time at the place he knew as Pilot Field.

The talk there wasn't just about baseball, it was about life and the role baseball plays in it.

Collins said he understood some of the crabbing about the most recent Series, the argument that maybe the baseball wasn't the greatest the game has ever known.

But as a manager and fan he still couldn't pull himself away from the show and argued that anyone who appreciated the game could relish the drama as this Series unfolded.

"I can understand where the argument is coming from," he said. "Whenever you don't have the glamour teams . . . but that shouldn't take away from the games that were played. It's the World Series and even if the games weren't some of the best ever played, the drama of it all had to capture your attention. Those games were certainly exciting."

None more than Game Seven, which the Indians could and should have won.

Cleveland had the talent. The Tribe had better pitching and though the lineup was sprinkled with some young players, notably former Bison Jaret Wright, the heart of the roster was an experienced, supposedly pressure-tested bunch. Wasn't Charles Nagy their best starting pitcher for most of the season? Didn't Orel Hershiser used to know how to win? Hadn't Manny Ramirez, Matt Williams and David Justice played in big games before? What about Omar Vizquel -- hadn't he done the job all season?

Bit by bit, Leyland negated Cleveland's assets. He wasn't so good that he didn't need the luck of an error in a tight game to help push the winning run across, but overall he used his strengths (Livan Hernandez) and out-managed Mike Hargrove in a Series that wasn't perfect, but was as good as he could make it.

That wasn't lost on Collins, who respects Hargrove, but admires Leyland.

"I was there when the Pirates got to that seventh game situation with Atlanta and lost," Collins said of the 1992 National League Championship Series. "You never forget a loss like that, but the important thing is that you learn from it and you go on. That's why my heart was with Jim and those guys in the Florida dugout.

"I know what they went through and to see them get back there again and win it. . . . It's why you stay in the game."

Even if it does take a little piece of your heart along the way.

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