No one embodies the spirit and the loyalty of the Atlanta Braves quite like Brian Snitker.
He has been a member of this National League baseball franchise for the last 40 years. Snitker blew into town in 1977 as a minor league catcher and first baseman.
For the next four years, Snitker bounced from one Braves farm team to the other. He played in Kingsport, Tenn., Greenwood, S.C., Kinston, N.C., Savannah, Richmond, Va. and Durham, N.C.
Snitker ate the greasy hamburgers. He slept in the small town motels. Snitker traveled by bus on the minor league baseball circuit while playing for the Braves. In all, Snitker played 236 minor league games in the Braves organization.
He never got his big shot, although Snitker kept on trying and swinging. From 1977 to 1980, Snitker batted .254 in the minor leagues with 112 RBI’s, 31 doubles and three triples. Snitker hit a total of 23 home runs during his minor league stint.
He would never play one game of Major League baseball. But after his minor league playing days were over, Atlanta rewarded Snitker. He went from a player to an instructor, to a coach, to a manager, all in the Braves organization.
Snitker has coached in the minor leagues and the Major Leagues, all with the Braves. Actually, Snitker has been a member of the Braves since the days of Chief Noc-AHoma at Fulton County Stadium.
Through the years, Snitker has gained a world of experience while managing the Durham Bulls, the Greenville Braves, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Mississippi Braves of the Southern League (Double A ball).
Snitker, now 61 years old, has also managed some attitudes and baseball talents with the Richmond Braves and the Gwinnett Braves in the International League (Triple A). Snitker comes highly recommended.
He’s a good baseball man. He has convictions and chewing tobacco. He has good baseball sense, and he knows how to handle people. Snitker is a pro. But he wasn’t born with a baseball in his mouth.
He gained his vast knowledge a little at a time. For eight years, Snitker was the Braves third base coach. He was a good conversationalist. He was also good at hand signals.
He knew how to put up the stop sign or send the Braves base runners on their way. Snitker is well versed with dealing with personalities and baseball egos. He also knows how to teach and communicate with the modern day ball player.
And as the Braves bullpen coach, Snitker passed on his knowledge as well as the baseball. Snitker was the Atlanta bullpen coach in 1985, as well as 1988-90. And today, Snitker is the Braves future.
He is the new full time manager with the Braves at the Major League level. Atlanta has a young team with an old manager. But Snitker is young at heart. He has coached and managed many of the Braves players in the minor leagues.
Snitker knows the Braves inside and out. He loves his job and his position in life, which is no longer catcher or on occasion first base. The Braves are expected to excel next season with Snitker making the decisions and tutoring the players.
After guiding the Braves out of some troubled waters while he was the interim manager this season, Snitker was given the Braves reins as of Oct. 11 as the permanent manager. Or as permanent as a Major League manager can be.
Brian Snitker is looking forward to the challenge. The next stop could be the National League playoffs next year for Snitker and the Braves. And that is a long way from playing minor league baseball in Kingsport, Tenn.
Snitker is living the good life – from the dugout to the ball field.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer