Needed Bat

Matt Snyder's value to the Ole Miss baseball team has always been apparent. Last weekend's first preseason scrimmages proved that yet again.

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In the Friday intrasquad, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior first baseman/DH doubled in the top of the first inning and drove in two runs. Later in the game, the Virginian added a 3-run homer to his stat line on the day.

Then on Saturday he cooled off just a bit with only two singles, an RBI and a walk.

But the best news of all for Snyder and Ole Miss is that he is healthy. And playing. That wasn't always the case. There were the shoulder problems, including surgery and recovery, and there was getting hit in the face with a baseball last summer.

There were no visible signs from any of that last weekend. Snyder was happy to be playing back at 100 percent – and preferring to credit the entire Rebel offense rather than his own individual performances.

"On Friday we came out and it was like 14-7, and then Saturday it was like 16-5," Snyder said. "The offense has really taken to Coach (Cliff) Godwin's teaching and stuff like that. Everybody is hitting the ball really well right now, especially for the first weekend on the field. Everybody's seeing the ball really well, and usually when you come out (this early) the pitchers are the ones that are kinda on top. They're a little bit ahead.

"But the things we're doing right now are just unbelievable. I told Coach Godwin it's the best offense I've seen in a really long time," Snyder continued. "It feels great. Personally it's really working for me."

Snyder said it is not by chance that things are better. The Rebels have put in the effort to improve.

"One of the biggest things is just the amount of work we're doing," he said. "Everybody comes in like an hour before practice. Everybody does. Everything we've been doing has been good. There hasn't been a single thing (Godwin) has told us that hasn't worked."

Snyder had shoulder surgery in June, 2010, and rehabbed the next several months. He then injured his shoulder again in the preseason last January. He still played in all 55 games in 2011, batted .301, and led the team with nine home runs and 39 RBI.

Times haven't always been easy for Matt Snyder
Bruce Newman

The season before, in 2010, after initially injuring his shoulder in an early series at Tulane, he still played in 42 of the team's 63 games. He was second in hitting at .347, and tied Matt Smith with 12 for best home run honors.

In 2009, Snyder batted .298, appearing in 53 of the Rebels' 64 games and tied Smith and Kyle Henson at the top of the home run chart with eight each.

Even through some tough times, the numbers tell the story. The Rebels need a healthy Snyder in the lineup. He even takes us through the reasons why.

"One of the biggest things is when you have a big lefty in the lineup, it's always a plus. Because most pitchers are right-handed. So a big guy that's a lefty up there makes the (opposing) coaches think about what they're going to do.

"I've been here so long I've gotten to where I can handle all kinds of different pitches, especially when I'm healthy. I love facing left-handed pitchers, and I work so hard when I face both (lefties and righties). I feel I bring power to the lineup, but they can't really pitch around me because of the guys that are behind me. This year is going to be good for the whole offense."

Snyder said he wants to hit "at least 20" home runs. "I like to keep my goals very high," he said.

But he has to stay healthy.

"That's extremely important. I have to know my limits. I have to keep myself in check. No diving at all. That doesn't mean I can't play good defense. I can."

Snyder said this year's team, he believes, can be special.

"Everybody is just happy to be out here together," he said. "Like I've said before, this is one of the closest teams I've been on. We're all out here together. We're working hard. We're real excited.

"We know what we've done to get to this point right now. Once the season starts, there's no reason we shouldn't have a really good season. That's why we're all so excited."

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