From catcher to coach to skipper: Snitker's incredible journey

February 2nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman's Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Brian Snitker played his first professional game for the Kingsport (Tenn.) Braves in 1977, a year before Bobby Cox began his first tenure as Atlanta’s manager.

In 1980, when Snitker’s short playing career came to a close, Hank Aaron (then an executive with the club) made one of the best decisions in franchise history. Aaron gave Snitker a coaching job, not knowing that the young catcher would spend the next five decades becoming one of the most influential figures in franchise history.

It may have been easy to flippantly look at the contract extension Snitker received last week. I mean, he has won five consecutive division titles, and he should have won his second NL Manager of the Year Award last year. A common thought might have been, “Of course he’s going to keep managing as long as he wishes.”

But it truly is incredible to think Snitker will have a chance to manage through the 2025 season, around the time he turns 70. (His birthday is Oct. 17.) Cox was 69 when he ended his Hall of Fame managerial career in 2010, with some guy named Brian Snitker as his third-base coach.

Now Snitker will enter his 47th year in the Braves organization as the proud captain of the ship. His story is truly an incredible one.  You likely know about how he nearly walked away from this dream job after the 2017 season, when he didn’t want to work for former team execs John Hart and John Coppolella. Those two would have likely dismissed Snitker had they not been handed MLB sanctions. 

You can still feel some anger build whenever Snitker talks about how former GM Frank Wren removed him as the third-base coach and sent him to Triple-A Gwinnett to manage after the 2013 season. Spinning it as a promotion certainly didn’t work, especially with the guy who felt he was being demoted.

After Snitker guided the Braves to the first of five NL East titles in 2018, I detailed many of the trials and tribulations he’d encountered over the past four decades. As time has passed, it has become even clearer that he truly was the man for the job when he was named interim manager six weeks into the 2016 season, with the rebuilding Braves just 9-28.

After waiting nearly 40 years to become a big league manager, Snitker nearly had to remove his starting pitcher (Aaron Blair) in the first inning of his first game. Safe to say things have gotten much better thanks to Snitker, who guided the organization through a rough rebuild and into a period of success that could rival or maybe even surpass what the Braves experienced during the 1990s and early 2000s.