Brian Snitker’s remarkable story continues at All-Star game

LOS ANGELES – As the Braves came within one win of clinching the National League pennant in 2020, manager Brian Snitker had a realization: If they reach the World Series, he could manage the NL in the ensuing All-Star game.

Unfortunately for Snitker and the Braves, the Dodgers rallied to win the NL Championship Series that October. The Braves rebounded by finishing the job last fall, ousting the Dodgers in an NLCS rematch and defeating the Astros in the World Series to win the championship.

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So Snitker waited longer than he preferred, but this summer, he indeed became an All-Star manager. Snitker oversaw the NL this week, joining his friend and mentor Bobby Cox as the only Atlanta-era Braves managers to be the headmen of the NL All-Star team.

“This is really neat,” said Snitker, who’s spent over four decades with the Braves organization. “It’s awesome, all the guys that we brought. For our staff, too, their hard work and everything they did that helped get us where we wanted to go. The consistency, work ethic; I’m really happy for the staff and everybody. It’s just a really great honor for all the guys involved.”

This week was the latest improbability of Snitker’s story. He was a minor-league coach for decades and a third base coach for the Braves from 2007-13. He eventually genuinely doubted he would get the chance to become a major-league manager. He received the Braves’ managerial job as an interim in May 2016.

Snitker didn’t just earn the full-time job. He’s assembled a more illustrious resume than he could’ve imagined. He won NL Manager of the Year in 2018, overseeing the Braves’ improvement from 72 wins to 90 victories. His teams have won four consecutive division crowns. He’s a World Series champion manager – again joining Cox in exclusive Braves company.

And now, he’s been an NL All-Star manager.

“I was talking to my wife the other day when we were here, and I was like, ‘You know what, we’re checking off a lot of really cool boxes here at the end,’” Snitker said. “Everything that we’ve been through in the game, and all that, this is pretty special here to be able to experience all this.”

“To have a baseball lifer grind it out in the minor leagues, and what he’s done, all that he’s given to this game, to see him get rewarded for all his hard work, it’s kind of what it’s all about,” Braves All-Star left-hander Max Fried said. “I couldn’t be happier and prouder of him. What he’s been able to accomplish, it’s just awesome.”

Snitker had a couple of unique experiences as NL manager. He named Clayton Kershaw the NL’s starter – the first time that the future Hall of Fame left-hander has started a Midsummer Classic, and at his own home venue no less.

When trying to inform Kershaw that he would start, Snitker couldn’t reach Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was in a meeting. He pivoted to former Braves player Freddie Freeman, now the Dodgers’ first baseman, who immediately answered and passed the phone to Kershaw.

“That was cool,” Snitker said. “That was a special moment to let him know he was going to start.”

Snitker also managed Cardinals legend Albert Pujols, who in his final season was appointed a legacy addition to the roster by MLB. Pujols competed in the Home Run Derby on Monday and flew out to left during his only at-bat in the All-Star game.

“It’s an honor and so special to manage him for a game,” Snitker said. “I just have so much respect for him and his career, everything that he’s done. I think it was just a great thing that baseball did in naming him to this team. It’s really cool.”

The Braves had six players on the All-Star team: Ronald Acuna, Max Fried, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras. Snitker also had most of his staff with him, along with Roberts and Nationals manager Davey Martinez. Snitker’s son Troy, the Astros’ hitting coach, was with Dusty Baker’s AL staff as well.

Cox last managed the All-Star team in 2000 (he did so five times). Snitker is in rare air.

“This is special for our whole staff, but especially Brian,” Braves catching coach Sal Fasano said. “The only other Braves manager to do this is Bobby. That’s elite company. Really, it’s awesome. Who better to manage an All-Star team than an All Star-type person like Brian? It makes me happy.”

Of course, there was one more familiar face: Freeman, a player who was instrumental in what the Braves have achieved under Snitker. It was Freeman’s sixth All-Star appearance, but this time he had both his managers, Snitker and Roberts, in the dugout with him.

“That’s pretty cool,” Freeman said. “Dave called me yesterday to congratulate me and he goes, ‘Me, you and Snit are going to sit down and just talk and hang out.’ And I said, ‘I would like that very much.’ Just seeing Snit again, when I talked to him (Sunday) after I learned I made it, he said, ‘To manage you again, life works in wonderful ways sometimes.’ To be in the same dugout as Snit again, it’s cool.”

Snitker largely is responsible for the Braves’ acclaimed environment. The team’s clubhouse nature and fun atmosphere – yes, “fun” is a word commonly used by players – is revered around baseball. It’s helped the Braves get their players’ best performances, from All-Star talents to journeymen.

“It was cool walking in and seeing him, seeing that smile on his face,” d’Arnaud said. “It makes it more comfortable for me because I know I can joke around with him all day. I’m so happy for him and all the coaches to experience this.”

Snitker’s NL team lost to the American League 3-2 on Tuesday, but he saw Acuna and Riley collect their first career All-Star hits. “I feel like a proud father,” he said after the game. “It was really neat to get them in there.”

So ended the latest new experience of Snitker’s baseball life. It’s another chapter for “The Chronicles of Brian Snitker,” which would make for a worthy script. But the full story hasn’t been written just yet.