PHILADELPHIA – A few different times, the Braves “recycled” Brian Snitker – a word he uses for times when the organization took him off its major-league staff and tossed him back to the minor leagues. When it occurred again in 2013, he put the idea of one day managing the big club out of his mind.
“Well, if it was going to happen, it would’ve happened before now,” he thought at that time.
He has since won 500 games as a big-league manager. His story is as good as any in sports, and it gets better with each milestone. The journey has surpassed anything he could have imagined.
Snitker collected his 500th career win when the Braves defeated the Phillies, 6-3, on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. The 66-year-old Snitker is the fifth manager in Braves history to reach 500 victories. Three of the other four – Bobby Cox, Frank Selee and Bill McKechnie – are in the Hall of Fame. Snitker is the 138th manager in MLB history to reach the feat, and is 500-430 as a skipper.
“I’m proud to be here, and to have done it all here, too, with the Braves,” Snitker said after Tuesday’s win. “This is my home.”
After the game, the Braves surprised Snitker with a champagne toast in the clubhouse. They wanted to show their appreciation for their leader. There were champagne bottles and glasses on a table in the middle of the clubhouse, the signs of a well-deserved celebration for a baseball lifer.
“It’s just amazing,” Dansby Swanson said. “That’s a lot of wins. Just the career and the career path that he’s had. I feel he’s served his purpose and role for this organization for so long, and to be able to be rewarded in the way that he is right now is so cool. We’re so blessed to be a part of it. That’s what we kind of tried to share with him, how much we appreciate him and love him, and how we wouldn’t be here without his belief in us.”
After the Braves recycled him again in 2013, Snitker went down to Triple-A Gwinnett and managed that squad. He felt content with the gig, even after spending seven seasons as the big-league Braves’ third-base coach.
“Really, I enjoyed it down there, living at home,” Snitker said before Monday’s game. “Shoot, I was probably the only guy in Triple-A baseball sleeping in their own bed.
“I didn’t ever see this coming.”
In 2016, the Braves named Snitker their interim manager after they fired Fredi Gonzalez. They removed the interim tag after the season.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Braves haven’t had another manager since. Snitker won National League Manager of the Year in 2018 and guided his team to a World Series title last season. He has led the Braves to four straight division titles. His 22 postseason victories rank No. 26 in MLB history, and his .595 postseason winning percentage is 11th all time for managers with at least 15 playoff games under their belt. Last week, he managed the NL All-Star team.
“Not anything that I ever dreamt about or saw coming or anything like that,” he said.
Snitker has been with the Braves since 1977. He played in their system for four years, then began his coaching career as a roving instructor in 1981. He eventually managed at every minor-league level. Throughout his career, he’s learned from tons of legends, from Hank Aaron to Bobby Cox and more.
“It’s all about the people,” Snitker said. “I’ve said many times: I’ve been raised by Hall of Famers and really good people. There’s a laundry list of guys – a lot of them aren’t here anymore – that were very influential in my career. It’s always been about the quality players in the Atlanta Braves organization. The players, the people, the general managers, the directors, the scouts, the whole thing.
“It’s been very special. This is a different place.”
Snitker has led the Braves to great heights. He took over during a rebuild and has seen this group to its current form: A high-powered, well-balanced machine hoping to repeat as World Series champions.
“I think he just really allows guys to be themselves,” Swanson said. “There’s definitely like standards in this organization that we all feel like we need to uphold and everything like that, but he definitely kind of creates that box that you can play in and allows you to just be you. He makes everything about winning just like you do.”
Snitker and his wife, Ronnie, always talk about the boxes they’ve checked off during his time as the Braves’ manager. They’ve experienced one after another, each as special as the last. He has had time to reflect on many of those accomplishments.
At some point, Snitker’s 500th win will sink in, too.
“Probably when I retire and look back on things,” he said. “Stuff goes so fast and everything here, you don’t have a chance to do that.”
For now, he’s focused on winning another World Series.