Atlanta Braves Top Franchise Managers: #4 – Brian Snitker
The Atlanta Braves team that opened the 2016 season were pretenders instead of contenders. After opening the campaign with a 9-28 record, they handed their manager his last paycheck and called up old-faithful.
The Atlanta Braves signed Brian Snitker in 1977, and he’s been with the club since then. At least, that’s the headline we hear repeated every time Snit’s team does something special, but it wasn’t that easy.
Brian Gerard Snitker was raised about 100 miles up the road from me in Macon, Illinois. When he started high school, he wore thick glasses, and teammate Stave Shartzer said he wasn’t a stolen base threat.
"“There’s dead people that can outrun him.”"
But when you attend a high school with 260 students, knowing how to catch the ball and swing at bat will get you a shot. Snitker tried out and won a job playing right field for the Macon High School Ironmen.
In 1971, the Ironmen shocked the world by becoming the smallest school in Illinois history to reach the state finals. If you haven’t read One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball, I suggest you take the time and change that.
He went on to play American Legion Baseball and told the American Legion Magazine that playing Legion ball helped him make the jump to a professional career. After two years at LSU, the Braves signed him, and three years later, they released him. Atlanta Braves’ fans know the story of the Hank Aaron phone call that made him a braves instructor/coach, but not many know how hard a road it was to travel.
Called Up, Sent Down, Wash, Rinse, Repeat
After the now legendary call from Hank Aaron, everything went perfectly, except it didn’t. Roving hitting instructors are Gypsies, traveling from one minor league town to another and doing a lot of things not in the job description of a hitting coach.
"I’ve been everywhere, man I’ve been everywhere, man Crossed the desert’s bare, man I’ve breathed the mountain air, man Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man I’ve been everywhere (Geoff Mack, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash)"
Snitker must have felt like a yo-yo. After a year on the road as hitting coach, the Braves gave him the reins of the Anderson Braves. In 1983 he moved to Durham, and in 1985, a call to join the Atlanta Braves as bullpen coach.
When the Braves changed managers in 1986, Snitker found himself back in A-Ball again with Sumpter for two years before returning to Atlanta as Bench coach; two years later, it was back to the Sally League. Over the next 15 seasons, Snitker managed in Macon, Danville, Macon, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Pearl, and Richmond.