Working His Way Back

Matt Snyder was playing first base for Ole Miss early last season in a series at Tulane when his world changed. An all-out effort, typical of his play, proved to be his undoing last season.

Snyder was racing toward the bag after a ground ball was hit his way. He dove into the bag to try to beat the Green Wave runner, but he suffered a shoulder injury that would eventually take surgery in June to repair.

The personable and talented Snyder was able to hit the baseball after that in the role of a designated hitter. But his days at first base were done for 2010.

"We finished in Virginia (at the NCAA Regional in Charlottesville), and I had the surgery later that week," Snyder said. "It's all gone well since then. My swing feels stronger than before. I've gained about 20 pounds. I feel I'm better than ever."

Snyder, whose twin brother, Mike, transferred from Ole Miss to Florida Southern College prior to this school year, said he's put in the time and effort to get back to the playing field.

There were tough times in 2010 for Matt

"I can't explain to you how hard I've worked," said Snyder, from Centreville, Va. "I've done exactly what I've been told to do. I've just wanted to work so hard. My dad has a baseball facility.

"(UM baseball trainer) Tony (Barnett) talked to my dad, making sure he was keeping an eye on me during the holidays that I wouldn't be in there every day. I just want to work so hard to make sure I'm ready."

Last season proved how much Snyder wanted it. He still played in 42 games, batting .347 which was second on the team to Matt Smith's .348. He had 12 home runs which tied Smith for first on the team in that department.

The injury and subsequent surgery was to his left shoulder, which is neither his throwing arm nor his lead arm when he swings the bat. Snyder said his shoulder is just about 100 percent as the second semester gets underway this month.

"I've been lifting and hitting. It feels great and doesn't even seem like I had surgery," he said. "I know some people might say since I had surgery I won't be as good. But I really do feel like I didn't have surgery at all."

There are some limitations as to what he can and cannot do as far as preparation.

"I can't squat and I can't bench," the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder said. "What I do is focus a whole lot on my leg presses. With the upper body, I can do biceps and triceps and forearms and pushups. But I can't really do a lot of heavy weights and dumbbells yet. I can start doing a little more now (that I'm back to school)."

Snyder and his brother Mike are from an impressive baseball family. An older brother, Brandon, was the 13th overall pick of the Baltimore Orioles in the 2005 draft. Their father, Brian, played at Clemson and spent 12 years in professional baseball.

Preseason practice for the Rebels will begin shortly. Several candidates are vying for first base. Snyder makes it clear; he wants his spot back.

"Absolutely I want it back," he said of playing first again. "I know I'll be ready. I take a lot of pride in my fielding. I know I can get the job done again."

That's the physical aspect. After having the shoulder injury at Tulane and even having it pop out again when only batting and running against Southern Mississippi in a game at Pearl later in the season, there could be some mental anguish to overcome, especially with the surgery and recovery.

But Snyder, who played in 53 games and batted .298 with eight home runs as a freshman two seasons ago, said he isn't worried about what might happen when he goes all out on the field, as he always does.

"That won't be a problem for me. There are no worries," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and do exactly what I'm supposed to do and get the job done."

With Matt Snyder involved, there's no doubt that will be the case.

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