Snitker's feel-good story was well-earned

Braves manager worked his way up through organization for 40 seasons

October 11th, 2016

Brian Snitker is a real-life feel-good story.

Six days shy of his 61st birthday, Snitker had the interim tag removed from his title Tuesday, and he became the manager, plain and simple, of the Atlanta Braves.


Forty years ago, he joined the Braves organization as an undrafted catcher out of the University of New Orleans. He has been in baseball ever since -- and every one of those 40 years have been with the Braves organization.

Tommy Lasorda may bleed Dodger blue.

Brian Snitker bleeds Braves red, white and blue. He has been a backup catcher in the low Minor Leagues, a coach and manager in the Minors, and a coach and manager in the big leagues.

And he has done it all for the only club he's ever known.

How long has he been in the organization?

Washington, Hernandez join Braves' coaching staff

Well, there have been 699 players who have worn an Atlanta Braves uniform since Snitker joined the organization in 1977, which was the year before Dale Murphy made his first Braves Opening Day roster.

It was the year before the Braves made Bob Horner a first-round Draft choice, and 13 years before Chipper Jones was the first player selected in the Draft. It was seven years before the Braves used a second-round pick on Tom Glavine, and a decade before the Braves sent Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for pitching prospect John Smoltz.

And it was the year that then-owner Ted Turner -- upset at an 8-21 start -- told manager Dave Bristol to take a 10-day vacation in May, and Turner named himself interim manager. This lasted for one game, after which then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn told Turner that anyone who owned stock in a team was forbidden from managing it.

Snitker was a critical figure in helping to develop the home-grown players who were so critical in the Braves winning a professional sports record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005.

Snitker is baseball's version of the guy who started in the mail room and became chairman of the board.

His resume? He played four years in the Minor Leagues, topping out with 108 games spread over three seasons at the Double-A level. He was a Minor League coach for five seasons, and then a manager in Atlanta's farm system for 19 seasons. Snitker coached at the big league level 11 years, and he spent the bulk of 2016 as the interim manager of a team that was 9-28 when he took over, and went 37-35 after the All-Star break.

Now, Snitker is a big league manager -- the 13th full-time manager for the Braves since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966.

He earned this opportunity, but then that's the Snitker way.

He was born and raised in Macon, Ill. -- a town in the middle of Illinois with a population of roughly 1,200. He is one of five notable people from Macon listed in its Wikipedia page, along with Dale Connelly (a co-host of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Show), Nelson Kraschel, (governor of Iowa in 1937-39), Toby Towson (an NCAA gymnastics champion, coach and dancer) and Art Wilson (big league catcher from 1908-21).

Snitker was a starting outfielder on a Macon team that lost the state championship game in the 1971 Illinois all-school baseball playoffs, where it fell to a team from Evanston. It is the smallest school to ever play in the championship game, advancing from a field of 370 Illinois high schools that year.

That Macon team wore hand-me-down uniforms and Caterpillar tractor ball caps that wound up being covered with peace signs after other schools complained of the commercial nature of the caps. It was reluctantly coached by Lynn Sweet, a self-described hippie, who didn't mind his players having long hair and playing Jesus Christ Superstar in the dugout before games.

There was even a book, "One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season," written about that team.

Snitker wasn't a star of that team. He was only a sophomore. But he was in the starting lineup, and he did learn a lot about life that has helped form the basis for his never-complain, always-work-hard mentality.

It's an approach that has been good to Snitker, allowing him to spend the past 40 years making a living in the game he loves, and it has opened the door for him to reach the ultimate for a man in a baseball uniform -- a chance to manage in the Major Leagues.