And so Riley wanted to tell Snitker how much it had meant to him.
“I knew you had it in you,” Snitker told Riley. “I was gonna run you out there every day. We knew who you were gonna be.”
As he recalled this, Riley added: “I think that shows a lot of him. He never panicked.”
This, in a small anecdote, is Brian Snitker, the manager who backs his players, the one who understands how difficult their jobs are on a daily basis, the one who displays incredible feel in tough situations.
Yes, the Braves are what they are because of Riley and Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson and Ozzie Albies, Max Fried and Spencer Strider.
But they also are what they are because of Snitker, their guiding force who only enhances the talent in the room.
“How can you not love to play for Snit?” A.J. Minter said. “Just kind of his past, he’s the definition of an Atlanta Brave. I think he just puts the players first rather than his job, especially, his career. He’s just a player’s coach, and I’ve been fortunate that’s all I’ve played with, so I can’t really speak of what other managers are like. But I can kind of feel that other coaches – I can just kind of tell that there’s a little bit more passion with Snit. He knows how hard this game is. And he doesn’t panic, he’s just always steady. And as a player, that’s what you want your manager to be like. He sets the example every day, and how can you not go out there and love winning for him?”
That was, in a paragraph, what players want in a manager.
“For me, it’s someone that cares,” Riley said on that same topic. “The ultimate thing is that (a manager) cares, and Snit definitely cares. And he also lets the guys play. He’s in the background watching everything and just lets you play the game.”
To bench coach Walt Weiss, Snitker does a great job of allowing players the freedom to play without micromanaging them. And if there ever is a situation in which Snitker must intervene, Weiss said, he’ll do so.
It’s about knowing when and how to do things.
“I think there’s a tendency, when you’re in a position of leadership, to infuse yourself into every situation,” Weiss said. “You don’t have to do that. Snit’s a good illustration of that, where he’ll pick his spots, but he’s certainly not a micromanager. He’s far from that. He’s just got good feel for when to insert himself into a situation, whether it be with the team or with an individual player. He’s been around a long time, and he’s probably developed a feel for that. It comes with the experience and wisdom.”
Here’s how Snitker explains the balance between letting players be themselves and being more hands on when necessary: “I think the biggest thing is you understand it’s a hard game to play. They don’t need me (making it harder). I want to let them go and play their game, and stay out of their way, pretty much. If there’s an issue, we’ll address it. They don’t really give you a lot of reason to.”
His first sentence is an important part. Baseball is a difficult sport. It is physically taxing and mentally grueling. There are, of course, many twists and turns.
In 2019, Riley struggled – a lot. Then again in 2021. Still, he became the everyday third baseman.
To begin this season, Minter strung together poor outing after poor outing. The results were bad, but the underlying numbers painted a bit of a different story. Regardless, Snitker displayed confidence in Minter and kept running him out there. Now, Minter is pitching like he can.
“I think (players) feel like he trusts them,” Weiss said. “He doesn’t yank them out of their spot in the lineup or out of their role in the bullpen as soon as they struggle. And it’s easy to respond with knee-jerk reactions when you’re in that position because there’s a billion voices telling you what you should do. And everyone wants you to fix everything overnight. As soon as a guy has a bad outing, (people say), ‘Oh, he’s done. Don’t play him anymore, don’t pitch him anymore.’ But Snit has a good feel for when to step in, in those situations. He’ll give guys a lot of rope to fail. And again, the player feels like he trusts them, and eventually they come out of it.
“He’s just got good feel for that kind of stuff.”
To Minter, Snitker also displays that feel with day-to-day management decisions. “I think he holds us accountable,” Minter said. No matter how things are going, the Braves do their work. But Snitker isn’t afraid to lighten the workload if he thinks it’ll help.
And if the Braves are scuffling, Snitker knows just the perfect time to step in, as he did last season in Arizona. “That’s kind of what he’s known for is just whenever we need a little bit of a sitdown, a team meeting, he isn’t afraid to do that,” Minter said. “He’s known to do that.”
Snitker’s experience defines him, at least in part. He’s a lifer in this game. A longtime minor-league manager, he finally received his own call-up in 2016.
The Braves have not looked back.
Riley quoted third base coach Ron Washington: “If you’re talking about yesterday, you haven’t done crap today.” This is a motto of sorts for the Braves. They have fun, but they are business-oriented. They do their work. They are consistent.
It begins with Snitker, who is the same every day, regardless of what happened or will happen.
“He’s been through it all,” Riley said. “He knows how tough this game is and how brutal it can be sometimes. And I think when you are going through those rough stretches and you see a manager like that just kind of keep remaining the same, know that we’re going to come out the end of it, I think he kind of gives you that peace of mind to not put so much pressure on yourself, to just go out there and play the game.”
The Braves entered Saturday’s game with the second-best record in baseball. They are stacked.
They are even better because of Snitker.
“He’s always around,” Riley said. “Somebody that you can go into his office, and he’s very approachable, you can talk to him. I think he just kind of sets that standard for the clubhouse, and guys jump on board immediately and want to follow that. To me, I feel like I’m very fortunate to have a manager like him.”