Brian Snitker’s near life-long trek with Braves continues

Braves manager Brian Snitker embodies the baseball lifer. A long-time minor league coach, the journey seems all worthwhile now.

It was being absent from family for weeks, months. Lengthy nights on the bus, sometimes enduring flat tires or breakdowns that’d require spending the night in a stranger’s machine shed. It was receiving a call from his wife, Ronnie, panicking because cockroaches were crawling on their first born child.

Four decades of service awarded Snitker the Braves’ managerial job. What he’s done since earned him only the second multi-year contract of his life.

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The Braves extended Snitker for two seasons, with a club option for 2021, the parties announced Monday. Snitker, who turns 63 on Wednesday, is a favorite for National League manager of the year after guiding the Braves to 90 wins and an NL East title.

“I’ve been around long enough to know you’re never guaranteed tomorrow in this business,” Snitker said. “But I felt good about it. In conversations with (general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos) and staff, meetings we had, I felt confident based on our year and the progression that we made, I’d be asked back.”

Most of Snitker's 2018 staff will return with him, each on a two-year pact. The exception is pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who will be replaced.

Anthopoulos met with Snitker on Friday, when they finalized the agreement. The new GM was confident in Snitker throughout the year, but extending the manager was always on the backburner. He was committed to a full season of evaluation, including the postseason if it came to it (and it did).

What he learned in that period: Snitker is as advertised. Anthopoulos lauded Snitker’s character, leadership and people management. Snitker praised Anthopoulos’ honestly, communication skills and thought process.

“It’s the equivalent of getting married,” Anthopoulos said. “You’re not going to check every single box, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of good there. The environment in the clubhouse is very good. The interactions with the office, the interactions with the staff are very good. The interactions with the rest of the organization are very good. The interactions with the media are very good.

“I don’t know of any manager who will go through six months and 162 games where someone isn’t going to complain about something. That’s just reality.”

Snitker’s steadiness set him apart. The Braves had few rough patches in the regular season, but Snitker was a calming presence when they did.

When Snitker benched outfielder Ender Inciarte for not hustling in July, Anthopoulos took note. When Snitker moved Inciarte, who struggled for much of the year, in and out of the lineup, Anthopoulos took note.

“I’m not trying to pick on Inciarte specifically,” Anthopoulos said. “But a guy like that on a multi-year deal, who’s a key part of this team, then by the end of the season, Ender Inciarte is in his office telling him how much he respects him and likes him. That’s a hard thing to do, to manage and have those things.”

It earned Snitker security he’s rarely had, even entering his 43rd year with the organization. He received a two-year deal just once prior – under general manager Bobby Cox in the 1980s.

Snitker has served a variety of roles since 1977, when he first joined the Braves as a minor league catcher. He first took major league reins in May 2016, when he assumed the interim role following Fredi Gonzalez’s early season jettisoning.

Just over a year ago, it was imminent Snitker would be fired. But the organizational unraveling after an Major League Baseball investigation discovered numerous misdeeds forced out the front office primed to let him go. Snitker received another year, and the Braves were spared a mistake.

“I feel really good that I have an opportunity to stay around here a little longer and be a part of this,” Snitker said. “I really like where we’re going. I love everything about what’s going on here. The front office, the organization, the whole thing is really solid and it’s got that vibe of what I remember years ago. It’s really getting solid again.

“And the thing that makes that possible is the people. That’s set this organization apart as long as I’ve been here. Players, they come and go, yeah, we have to have them. But the people surrounding this whole thing make this entire organization.”

No one would understand that better than Snitker, who’s been part of the franchise’s highest highs and lowest lows. It was at times strenuous on his family life. There were times he wondered how he could persist.

Snitker saw just three innings of his son’s high school baseball career. Attending his daughter’s graduation required jumping through hoops.

And yes, while with the Durham Bulls, Ronnie called Snitker during a road trip regarding roaches on their daughter Erin. They moved apartments during the season.

Fair to assume life’s circumstances are a bit kinder to the family these days.

“I’ve sat at home and thought (I’ve made it),” Snitker said. “My wife and I talk about it all the time. Just from her dragging the kids all over the country, chasing me around.

“The things that you miss, the sacrifices that you make. … I do sit back sometimes and think ‘Man, how the hell did you get through that?’ And you get here and it’s kind of worth it.”

And it was worth it to the Braves, whose resurrection was overseen by the man who appeared destined for the job – it just took a while to get there.