While Travis Snider may only be twenty-four, the man has dealt with more adversity than most Major League veterans.
In his young professional career, he’s tragically lost grandparents, a best friend – and his mother, in a horrific car accident. He’s been bounced around from the Toronto Blue Jays farm system up to the Rogers Centre, only to be sent down again after another minor injury. He has a pesky wrist injury that just won’t seem to go away. He’s battled Eric Thames, Corey Patterson, and Juan Rivera, Colby Rasmus, and others for a roster spot. Throughout all of this, I don’t recall ever hearing him complaining to the media or see him pout on the field.
Simply put, Snider has the poise of a ten-year Major League veteran. Hopefully now that the Jays are giving him another chance, he can finally prove to Toronto fans and to the rest of the baseball world that he is the outfield stud that tore up the minors right out of high school. Snider was, after all, the young centerpiece (or CENTREpiece for you Candians, ha!) of former Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi’s plan to out-slug the division rival New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Originally, Ricciardi wanted to acquire big bats through free agency, like sluggers Frank Thomas, Lyle Overbay, Scott Rolen, and Troy Glaus. Realizing that those guys weren’t getting any younger, Ricciardi drafted Snider in 2006 with the 14th pick in the draft.
Snider began his career that same summer with the Pulaski Blue Jays of the Appalachian League and excelled with a .325 average in 54 games, knocking in 41 and hitting 11 HR.
In 2007, his first full season as a professional, he hit .313 with 16 HR, while raking in 93 RBI with the Midwest League’s Class “A” Lansing Lugnuts.
Although he started 2008 with the Class “A” Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League after suffering an elbow injury in Spring Training, he quickly earned a promotion to Toronto, doubling in his first Major League at-bat in Yankee Stadium.
Unfortunately, in 2009 – partially due to nagging injuries – he couldn’t get things cooking and was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas to work out some kinks in his swing. He was eventually recalled later that season, scuffling to a .241 average with only 9 HR and 29 RBI in 77 games.
In 2010, the story was pretty much the same: inconsistent play and injuries led to a shuffling of Snider through the Jays system and up across the border. He only appeared in 82 games with the Jays.
A professional low came in 2011 when Snider was sent down to Las Vegas at the end of April due to an awful slump. Many wondered if that was the end of the line for the young outfielder. Alex Anthopoulos, Ricciardi’s successor, was looking to do a quick turnaround and many wondered if Snider would be shipped off for some prospects.
However, Snider was apparently given one more shot to earn a job in the Jays lineup in the Spring of 2012 when he and Eric Thames battled for a roster spot in Spring Training. Thames had the edge, beating out Snider for playing time the previous season, and sure enough, Thames ended up beating out Snider for the roster spot this past April, sending Travis down to Las Vegas once again.
For Snider’s sake, it’s a shame that Dwayne Murphy, Toronto’s current hitting coach is no longer Toronto’s roving Minor League hitting instructor, like he was when Travis began his career in the Minors. They had a good rapport, and Murphy’s steady advice and calm demeanor seemed to resonate with Snider. Nonetheless, Snider’s diligent work this year led a .335 average with 13 HR and 56 RBI with the Las Vegas 51s before his promotion this weekend in Boston.
He managed to snag a roster spot after the Jays sent OF Ben Francisco and RHP Chad Cordero to the Houston Astros as a part of a ten-player deal.
If you haven’t seen the replay on ESPN or MLB Network by now, Snider’s first home run back was a beauty – he hit it to straightaway center field at Fenway off Jon Lester on Sunday.
If Snider’s body can hold up and allow him to put together a solid 2012, perhaps he’ll sneak onto the Jays roster in 2013, finally being able to show Toronto fans the player they thought they were getting back when Ricciardi drafted him in 2006.
I was fortunate enough to have worked as the bat boy for Snider’s Lansing Lugnuts in 2007 and I will never forget how hard-working and professional Snider was. He definitely stood out in a clubhouse of guys that acted like they were just out of high school (and to be fair, most WERE just out of high school). He was conversant and friendly, and had a quiet poise about him that only true leaders seem to have.
I hate it when writers add personal mementos into their pieces, so I apologize if you’re considering exiting out of S2S. However, I’d be remiss not to mention how much of a stand-up guy Snider was/is. I wish him the best and hope to see him in the Major Leagues for many years to come.