Manager Brian Snitker remains one of the Braves’ biggest strengths, advantages

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

SAN DIEGO – On one end of a ballroom in the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Braves manager Brian Snitker, one of baseball’s most heartwarming stories, departed the room and walked toward the next task on his schedule at these winter meetings.

On the other end of the room, Phillies manager Rob Thomson, owner of a Snitker-like story, praised a man to whom he relates.

“Just grinding it out for all those years,” Thomson said. “I really love those stores because that’s kind of what I did. And this guy’s been in that organization for as long as he has. He’s been with all these players. He’s helped all these players develop, and finally he gets a shot. I think it’s wonderful and I don’t think it’s anything weird or whatever that he’s had success.”

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Snitker has worked for the Braves since 1977. After playing in their system for four years, he started coaching as a roving instructor in 1981. He then managed at every level in the minor leagues. His chance came in 2016, when Atlanta named Snitker its interim manager. He has since compiled over 500 wins while winning five consecutive National League East titles (and counting) and a World Series.

Thomson was Joe Girardi’s bench coach until the Phillies fired Girardi early in the season. Thomson had worked for the Yankees for a long time, including as Girardi’s bench coach there. He served in multiple roles with that organization – but never as manager.

Thomson knows the journey, and the grind, well.

“It teaches you some toughness and some tenacity and some resiliency,” Thomson said. “Sometimes when you get that job in a really fast way, you haven’t gained that experience.”

As the Braves prepare for another season, Snitker remains one of their biggest advantages. His players say he’s calm and collected. He knows how to handle a long season full of ups and downs. In an organization that has employed Bobby Cox, Hank Aaron and other legends, Snitker will almost certainly be mentioned among the greats one day.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Snitker: For him, the job is about the people. It’s something he always says.

When Snitker was a young minor-league instructor, he sat in a small room at the Braves’ spring training complex. He remembers the same guys sitting in those seats year after year, with one goal.

“Everybody just did what they could do to help that organization,” Snitker said, “and it’s always been about the people here – and the players, more importantly.”

From afar, Snitker’s peers admire him – not only his journey, but his current success. His string of winning, they say, is no fluke.

Asked to name the most impressive aspect about Snitker, Rockies manager Bud Black said: “I think it’s a combination of who he is and what he has stood for. His loyalty to the Braves is second to none, right? He is a Brave. And I think with that, there becomes an organizational strength that he has for the organization. And that probably starts with how he feels about the players. I sense that his empathy for players, his care for the players is extremely strong. And players feel that. When you care about players, players feel that, and that makes them feel good.”

Many believe the role of a manager has been devalued in the modern-day game because front offices often make many decisions. But Atlanta still benefits from Snitker, his knowledge and his feel for the position. He knows how to handle players, and when to press certain buttons.

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In baseball, winning a World Series still often requires a great manager. The job is difficult, and at times thankless. One move works and you’re a hero, one does not and you’re deemed incapable of doing the job.

Over the last five years, the Braves have turned around their team. They win consistently now. They have another ring. They’re set up to continue winning for years to come. They have had many holes to fill and changes to make.

The manager has not been among those. Snitker has provided consistency for Atlanta.

Around a decade ago, Black met Snitker at the ballpark before their teams met and immediately noticed something. “There was an ease to him,” Black recalled. “You could just tell that he’s just a nice man.” Since then, Snitker has ascended into a tier of the most successful managers in the sport in such a short time.

“His experience and wisdom helps him lead,” Black said. “I can only assume that he’s been the same person in 2022 that he was in the 90s or 80s – whenever he started managing coaching.”

For Snitker, this has always been about the people.