Whicker: Brian Snitker an overnight sensation after 42 years with Braves organization
All the while, Snitker was throwing batting practice, coaching third base, hardnosing the highways of the South.“There were a lot of experiences,” he said. “There wasn’t one that trumped the other. I mean, there’s the bus breaking down and everybody spending the night in a guy’s machine shed. We had a pitcher that got the bull (on the farm) ticked off, and there’s the farmer’s wife bringing us Cokes and sandwiches because her husband has gone off to find a tire for the bus.“The bus rides got old after a while. But you think about the people I was able to meet. I’ve got such a big Christmas card list, I spend a fortune on it every year. It’s something you just can’t replace.”Freddie Freeman, the El Modena kid who led the National League in hits this year, was a full-throated proponent of Snitker when it came time to remove the “interim” from his name. But it took some convincing. Today’s manager comes from a different province, well-versed in numbers but particularly skilled in doing whatever the analytical experts tell him.“It’s all great information, don’t get me wrong,” Snitker said. “But I spent my whole managing career making decisions with my heart, my guts, my instincts, all that stuff. It was a lot more than matchups, heat charts, maps, numbers.“I learned that my job was handling people and I learned more about doing that every day. But there are a lot of managers who went straight to the majors and did it by all the experiences they had as players.”Like Roberts, Snitker had his share of roster conundrums to solve before the postseason. He didn’t include regular shortstop Dansby Swanson because of a hand injury, which meant former Dodger Charlie Culberson got the start.He also decided to include all his starting pitchers and held onto Touki Toussaint, a robust right-hander, who might become the X-factor of this series.That meant Snitker left Dan Winkler, Jesse Biddle and Long Beach State’s Shane Carle off the NLDS squad, even though they’d all contributed throughout.“I told them it was my fault,” Snitker said. “They’d worked a lot of innings. We might have been shutting them down anyway. I was the one that worked them to death in order to try to win this thing.”As MLB.com reported, Snitker almost walked away from the good life. General Manager John Coppolella objected to Snitker using Matt Kemp to pinch-hit against Miami’s Brad Ziegler in a so-what game on the final weekend of 2017. “Pack my things,” Snitker said, but Coppolella was the one who was fired, thanks to chicanery involving international signing rules.It has worked out well. The Braves completely reversed their 72-90 record of last year to get here. Snitker has been on every other part of the bus. He didn’t need to get under it. Snitker became a major league manager a month and a half later, when the Braves, Atlanta version, fired Fredi Gonzalez. He had just begun his 42nd year with the Braves and his 20th managing a minor league team, this one at Triple-A Gwinnett. The varsity was 9-28 at the time. With Snitker, it went 59-65 thereafter. He was 60 years old.Now Roberts and Snitker sit in opposite dugouts in Dodger Stadium, taking charge of the National League Division Series. Different paths? No, different worlds.“This is an unbelievable experience,” Snitker said beforehand. “It really is. But I wouldn’t trade any of those minor league seasons.”The journey sounds like a train conductor calling out the upcoming stops: Durham, Sumter, Macon, Danville, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Jackson, Richmond.Snitker’s team finished first three times. But he was there for preparation, kind of like a middle school teacher. A lot of consequential Braves took the ride with Snitker: David Justice, Mark Lemke, Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, etc. The Braves won 14 consecutive division championships beginning in 1991. The Dodgers rightfully think they’ve accomplished a lot with this current run, but they’re not even halfway there. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES — The first team Brian Snitker managed was the Anderson Braves. That’s in South Carolina, near Clemson, part of the South Atlantic League, several long jumps from the big show.Lary Aaron, son of Hank, was on that team. Hank, still the all-time home run leader at the time, was Atlanta’s farm director. Anderson went 72-70.On the opposite coast, Dave Roberts was 10 years old.Roberts became a major league manager in 2016, with the Dodgers. He never had run a major league club before.