Results tagged ‘ Brian Snitker ’
Much like David Hale, outfielder Todd Cunningham has seen quite a shift in his expectations this spring. A year ago, he entered Major League camp as the reigning Atlanta Braves Minor League Player of the Year, an award that earned him a spot as a non-roster invitee. He played in 22 Grapefruit League games before ultimately opening the season with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he went on to hit .265 with 60 runs scored an 20 stolen bases. This spring, Cunningham is a member of the 40-man roster with a taste of the Majors under his belt (he hit .250 in eight games for Atlanta last year), vying for a return trip to Turner Field. Gwinnett Braves Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte caught up with him today at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
DL: Last year, you were a non-roster invitee to Braves Spring Training. This year, you’re on the 40-man roster. How does this spring compare to last year?
TC: Every year, you’re just trying to get ready for Spring Training. Wherever you settle in the lineup or whatever team you end up on, it kind of works itself out. It’s all about getting ready for the season and being ready to go for game one.
DL: You’re competing for a roster spot with Atlanta, going up against some former Gwinnett teammates like Jose Constanza and Joey Terdoslavich. What’s that competition like?
TC: We all get along so well, there’s no bad blood among us. It’s all about the competition. We go out and we play hard, all of us enjoy the game of baseball. We have that connection, that bond, regardless of what happens. It’s all about going out there and playing hard.
DL: Obviously you still root for those guys when they’re at the plate.
TC: Yeah, they’re your teammates. You’ve come up with them and played with them, so you want everyone to do well.
DL: Last year with Gwinnett, you hit two home runs all year. In your third game this spring, you homered. What was it like showing some power in a Major League Spring Training game?
TC: It feels good. Hopefully that works itself into my swing; it’s something that I’ve tried to incorporate a little bit. Hopefully that shows up throughout the whole season.
DL: As a G-Brave in 2013, you were the everyday centerfielder. This spring, you’ve been playing a lot of left field. Are you still working towards being in center, or is it left field now?
TC: The whole goal is to be able to play as many (positions) as possible. You start looking at the levels above you, the big league level and who they have, and there’s a lot of contracts out there. For me and my position, trying to find a way to get in there, you have to be able to play more than one. The more positions I can play, the better, but obviously the longer I can stay in the middle of the field, the better, too.
DL: Is there different preparation involved for playing the corner outfield spots as opposed to center?
TC: Balls just don’t stay true on the corners, you get all the slices and hooks and top-spin. It’s a lot about first-step reads.
DL: Last season with Gwinnett, you hit .265 and stole 20 bases. Is there an area of your game that you’re working on improving for this year?
TC: Just being able to drive the ball consistently. I’d kind of go through stretches last year where I’d get behind some balls. To be able to do it throughout the whole year, would obviously improve (my) game.
DL: Last year, you got the opportunity to make your Major League debut with the Braves. It was a limited stint, but certainly an eye-opening experience for you. How important is that experience for you heading into this season?
TC: It’s great. It put me in position to come in as a roster invitee. It was just a really cool experience, to kind of get (my) feet wet. Especially when we were on that 14-game winning streak, it was a lot of fun to be in that atmosphere.
DL: Brian Snitker is the manager in Gwinnett this year. You got a chance to work with him at the Major League level last season, what are your thoughts on Snit?
TC: I’m excited to have his experience transferred down to the Triple-A level. He’s been around the game for a long time, so I’m sure there are things that everyone can pick up from him.
DL: The Gwinnett roster obviously will take shape once the Atlanta roster works itself out, but there should be a veteran presence on the club this year. I know you guys aren’t thinking about Triple-A just yet, but what’s your early feeling about the Gwinnett club?
TC: The whole goal, like I said, is to get to the big leagues, but also be ready for game one. I think everyone is going to be on the same page there and be ready in case the opportunity presents itself to be in Atlanta. As far as how the Triple-A team is going to shape up, I think it’s going to be a lot of guys all with the same goal in mind, which is really cool when you get that many guys on the same page. It should be an exciting year, wherever I end up.
DL: If you do end up back in Gwinnett at some point this season, how do you handle that?
TC: Just the same as I’ve always handled it. It’s baseball, I’m trying to get better, I have things that I’m working on. Keep the big picture in mind, trying to get back to Atlanta, and just keep working.
Chris Roughgarden of the Gwinnett Braves Photography Staff was at Champion Stadium on Thursday night to shoot the Atlanta Braves/Washington Nationals night game. She got some great shots of several 2013 G-Braves, which can be viewed in the slideshow below. The Braves won the contest, 3-2.
In case you missed it, new Gwinnett Braves Manager Brian Snitker was a guest on Mike Sammond’s radio show on 92.9 The Game last Saturday. In the roughly 10-minute interview, Snitker talked about his move back to the minors, the challenges of managing and coaching third base simultaneously, his experience as the Major League third base coach for Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, the development of Braves’ top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, his thoughts on Atlanta’s club in 2014 and more.
Click below to listen:
The following quotes were taken from Brian Snitker’s introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon.
How did this whole process come about? How did talks with (Atlanta Braves G.M.) Frank (Wren) and (Atlanta Braves Manager) Fredi (Gonzalez) go?
Snitker: “In these situations, you really don’t have a lot of say. Frank and Fredi called me into their office and told me this is the direction they wanted to go. From my standpoint it was a good mix for me because at the time I didn’t have to stay and could have gone somewhere else and pursued another Major League job with another organization, but after talking with them I told them that I have been here 37-38 years and I’m getting to that age were I’m not looking to start over anywhere. This situation is really good for me. I will be able to stay home. For 16 years in this business I left in February and came home in September, and my wife was left home with the kids. It was a good fit for me, I’ve known (General Manager of Gwinnett Braves) North (Johnson) for years, we go way back, there’s some great people here. The staff here are guys that I have a lot of respect for. I’ve worked with Mike Graus, our trainer, for over seven years in the minors, all the way from A-ball to AAA, so it’s just a good fit for me.”
Is the preparation any different from third base coach to manager?
Snitker: “It’s a lot different. When I first started as the third base coach, I was coming off of many years of managing, and I was trying to put a hit-and-run on and reminded myself that I couldn’t do that and I had to wait for (Former Braves and Hall of Fame Manager) Bobby Cox to do that. I just had to back off the throttle a little bit and realized I couldn’t get involved in that part of the game because that’s what (Bobby) is getting paid for. I prepared to coach third base for the last seven years, going through the video and looking at opposing teams’ players, and running the outfield defense and stuff like that. This is going to be a total team thing, which is going to fine. I will be more prepared in the whole game, more so than I had to in the past.”
Is that what you mean by opportunity at the Major League level, now at the Minor League level you get more autonomy now that you get to call your own shots?
Snitker: “You’re running the whole thing. You’re in charge and you’re responsible for a lot more than what I was previously doing.”
Will you coach third base?
Snitker: “Yeah, I enjoy that. I kind of like the stress of it. I always did the minor leagues unless I was injured, and as I’m getting older that is a possibility, but I will start off doing it.”
You’ve been in the big league twice on two different stints. Can you talk about how you can help these guys in the big picture?
Snitker: “I think a lot. I think being there with those guys for however many games and getting to experience playoff baseball, because there is nothing like it. It is such a cool experience and feeling. I remember when we won the wild card, Bobby’s last year, I told myself ‘I hope these guys remember how good this feels and how much fun this is when they get to Spring Training and get to the season and are they are tired, I hope that remember that feeling of playoff baseball. I learned more from the players than the actual game. When you watch those professional guys do it day in and day out, especially the guys that do it really good and watching them. Every day is the same, the work ethic is consistent. You know, guys like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mark Teixera and Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann, you see how those guys had to prepare and what they put into it. It’s amazing. You don’t just show up and go out there and are really or make it look easy. It takes a lot mentality and physically to perform at that level and slow the game down so you can perform at that level. I think watching all those guys will do nothing but help me in this job.”
Do you have a sense of how (working at the Major League level will help you)?
Snitker: “Yeah, just from the experience. Just from experiences everything I went through the last seven years. I know where these guys are trying to go and do, whether it’s the mindset of a reliever or having to play every day and not taking days off or pitches off. At the Major League level if you screw up, you have to watch it for 24 hours on ESPN until they play another game. Like if I got someone thrown out, they highlight you and it’s for everyone to see for the next 24 hours. But my experience won’t allow for me to take pitches off or take any play for granted. The overall experience the last seven years will make me a better manager.
Are you a different manager than you were seven years ago? How are you different?
Snitker: “My experiences are going to make me be different. I’m not the same guy that I was seven years ago. I went through a lot in those last seven years. It was similar to the first time when I managed for a while in the minors and then I had to coach. I wasn’t real happy about it at the time, I didn’t like what was happening but it was more of an ego thing than anything else. In retrospect when I started managing again, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. So those layoffs and working for other people have made me different. I got to work with two of the better managers in the game of baseball, Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, who is not a whole different from Bobby. They are practically the same guy on how they handled situations or players and the adversity that people don’t see on an everyday basis. I told these guys upstairs, ‘You have no idea what a Major League manager goes through in the course of a day.’ When the game starts is when a manager can relax. It’s the time leading up to 7:05 PM when those guys make their money, because there is something all the time and watching how they handle that is going to help me handle things better than I did before. I probably won’t be as reactive as a I use to be. Again, physically I’m not sure I can do some of the things that I use to do. But in watching them run a team and how they handled themselves and their attitude will only make me better. Bobby was the same guy every day, whether we were up 12 or down 12. I’d sit there and react to the game and he asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ I’d sit there and see a guy hit a 0-2 fastball out and I’d be raising hell, and he looked at me and says, ‘What’s the matter?’ I didn’t know how he could just sit there, but he was amazing. All the balls that man would keep in the air was phenomenal. And what a great experience it was for me to be there the last four years.
Anything specific about how they helped you?
Snitker: “How they handled everyday situations, especially Bobby. That last year he had so many people at him, asking for different things, but he kept so many balls in the air and you would never know it. He is amazing, it was such an honor to be there the last four years. We sit in the radar room every night after the game and just talk and that was just priceless. I wish I had a tape recorder. Fredi is the same way. Number one, they are both good men and that’s what makes them who they are.”
What do you see role with the Atlanta Braves organization? Is it player development?
Snitker: “Absolutely. It’s always player development. It’s about these players and getting them to the Major Leagues. They are the reason we are here and have jobs. I want it to be a good experience. When we leave here in September, I want them to look back and not care about the win-loss record, but their experience with the 2014 Gwinnett Braves. Hopefully they can have a good feeling about it, I know some won’t because they had a bad year, but I don’t want it to be because I’m beating them over the head. I want them to enjoy their time here and if they do that they will probably perform well.
Snitker: “It wasn’t bad. Like I said I was young and reactive. It’s funny they (Gwinnett Braves) asked me what number I liked to wear and I always wanted to wear number 4 because that was Luke Appling’s number. And Luke was with me a lot. He played a big part in my baseball career when he was one of my best friends. He was always there and he’d keep a lid on me a little bit. He was there to bounce things off of. That first year was fun, I mean we were playing baseball. Back then you set up the machine to hit extra and you’d always want to be first one to hit.”
The Gwinnett Braves held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to introduce their new Field Manager Brian Snitker.
In front of local media, VIP guests and front office staff, Snitker officially took over as the new skipper of the Gwinnett Braves. He replaces Randy Ready, who left the organization after one season with the Braves. Snitker will serve as the third manager in Gwinnett Braves’ franchise history.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Snitker. “I live 14 miles from here. I have raised my kids here in Lilburn and Brookwood High School. My mom lives five minutes from here. This couldn’t be any better for me.”
Snitker, who last served as the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, has plenty of managerial experience, spending 17 seasons with the Atlanta Braves organization. He posted a career 1140-1145 record while leading ten different affiliates from 1982 through 2006. In 1999 and 2000, he led the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to consecutive Carolina League Championships. After the 2006 season, Snitker joined the Atlanta Braves as their third base coach and served under Hall of Fame Manager Bobby Cox and current Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez.
“I got to work with two of the better managers in the game of baseball, Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez,” said Snitker. “They were practically the same guy on how they handled situations, players and the adversity that people don’t see on an everyday basis.”
The thirty minute conference was lighthearted and fun, as Snitker was joined by General Manager North Johnson, Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte and Atlanta Braves prospects Lucas Sims, Kyle Kubitza, J.R. Graham, Gus Schlosser and Aaron Northcraft. Snitker and the prospects fielded questions from the local media as well as Gwinnett Braves season ticket holders. Snitker will head to Spring Training as soon as pitchers and catchers report to Lake Buena Vista, FL at the beginning of February.
All in all, it was a great day to be at Coolray Field. With the beginning of the season approaching, Snitker is up for the job. Gwinnett kicks off the home schedule at Coolray Field on Friday, April 11th at 7:05 p.m. against the Durham Bulls. For more information on the G-Braves and Coolray Field, visit Gwinnettbraves.com, as well as our social media outlets at facebook.com/GwinnettBraves1 and twitter.com/GwinnettBraves!