One person had the biggest impact on Brian Snitker.
“He’s the reason I’m here.” — Brian Snitker, in sixth season as Braves Manager, 2021.
They met in 1977. As a first year minor league player, Brian Snitker met him, the Braves farm director at that time.
He ended Brian Snitker’s playing days in 1980, when Brian Snitker had reached AAA. “He just released me and offered me a coaching job.” In 1981, that coaching job was a “roving instructor.”
They developed a close friendship while playing racketball. That friendship lasted until this year, when he died.
He was Hank Aaron, Hall of Fame player and arguably one of the top-5 greatest baseball players. His career records include most RBIs (2297), most extra base hits (1477), and second most homers (755) per Baseball Reference.
Why is Brian Snitzer a great manager?
Let’s look beyond his 2018 NL Manager of the Year award. His winning percent in 5 years managing the Braves was excellent (52.7%). His team won the NL East three consecutive years and he followed up with an outstanding postseason winning percent of 52.4%.
Let’s look at five strengths: he applies his experience, he shares organization values, he builds culture, he motivates players, and he handles adversity.
His experience matters. Recently, managers with little to no experience in managing and coaching have been hired. There is a better path to excellence. Brian Snitker has been in the Braves organization in different roles since becoming a minor league player in 1977. He has 40 years experience coaching or managing plus 4 years as a player. That is exceptional! He knows baseball. He knows the Braves organization and players.
He shares organization values. The following quotes show shared values in the Braves organization.
“And I don’t know that these guys understand how long that process is and what it takes and how many years it takes to get there. This is still a very young team.” — Brian Snitker, May 2020
“They [Cox, Kasten, Snyder] built [a World Series winning team in 1995] through scouting and player development. And I saw it. The hard work they did, the emphasis on players.” — Brian Snitker, May 2020
“This organization has never wavered from their scouting and player development. It’s the lifeline of what we’re doing here.” — Brian Snitker, October 2020
“…Snitker has meshed well with his players while adapting to the analytics-driven style pushed by general manager Alex Anthopoulos.” — Associated Press, February 2021
“It’s my job to hold things together and keep the best possible team on the field every day….You just come in every day and try to win…” — Brian Snitker
He builds culture. The following quotes show that instead of changing the culture, he reinforces the culture by communication.
“I’m not here to change things. I won’t sugarcoat anything, but I want to create an atmosphere where you can be successful.” — Brian Snitker May 2017
“Notably, Snitker runs a clubhouse with a family-like atmosphere that the organization feels has extracted the most from each of its players, be that journeymen like Charlie Culberson and Matt Joyce or superstars like Freeman and Acuña.” — Gabe Burns, December 2020
“…Snitker is known for being a player’s manager whose people skills separate him from many others and made him a valuable part of the Braves organization long before he became the big-league manager.” — David O’Brien
“All of them [his coaches] laud Snitker for creating an atmosphere that makes it easy to do their jobs, and for listening to their opinions.” — Davis O’Brien
He motivates players. Brian Snitker strongly motivates his players intellectually and emotionally.
“His presence is something that just makes you want to run through walls for [him]. I think everybody in this clubhouse has responded to him, because he’s such a good guy, he treats everybody the right way.” — Freddie Freeman, 2018
Presence means things like: Inspiring. Motivating. Commanding. Energized. Credible. Focused. Confident. Compelling.
Brian Snitker often talks about players (on his team and other teams). His monologues for the press are positive, show how he motivated players, and reflect his experience with many situations. My observations:
- He uses powerful words and phrases to make players feel great about themselves. For example: “If I could run like you, I’d sell my car”… “we’ve all seen the stuff — my God, it’s crazy”… “it was kind of like he did everything”…”I loved the way he”…”he just amazes me”…”he’s been really good”…”he’s very confident in himself”…”you can tell he is a very coordinated athlete”…”we just love the depth that he provides”…”the kid’s maturing and has come a long way”…“that kid has a good arm”…“I love where he’s at right now”…”that’s good to see anytime”…”he’s a ballplayer”…
- He knows how to strongly motivate players when they fall short of immediate expectations: For example: “we are so excited for this player’s future”…”it’s never too late in situations like this”…”that bench role is not for everybody but could extend a playing career”…”being sent down is not end of world because we will need that player at some point”…”it’s just going to be an opportunity for him to go down and stay regular.”
He strives to make each season a good experience so players will work hard to return next season.
“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.” — Brian Snitker, January 2014
“And knowing and respecting how they [players] go about it, and appreciating what they do, is a big thing that allows them to relax and just enjoy what they’re doing.’’ — Brian Snitker, Feb 2021
“He’s grown as comfortable with us as we have with him. He’s always asking us about certain things. When you can have that direct dialogue, it’s definitely a fun working relationship.” — Dansby Swanson
“We know he cares about us tremendously off the field as people,” — Dansby Swanson Players rarely embrace ideas the hear unless they know the speaker cares about them.
He handles adversity.
By his experience working with two great people, Brian Snitker knows ways to handle adversity while supporting his players.
“He has a lot of good traits, but that’s one of his best ones. He always has your back, regardless of what’s going on. Sometimes, even when you’re wrong, he’s going to have your back. That’s just his M.O.” — Dansby Swanson
“.. [Brian Snitker observed] 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.” — Brian Snitker, January 2014