The Future - Brandon Snyder
This article appears in the May/June 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine. Since then, Snyder was selected in the first round (No. 13) of the MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Brandon Snyder doesn't remember too much about his father's big league career, but certain indelible images remain.
The SchoolSports All-American was only 3 years old when his dad, Brian, retired from the Atlanta Braves organization in 1990 after stints with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's, but Westfield's senior catcher/shortstop remembers running around the clubhouse and field prior to games and getting to hit off the tee with his father. He remembers growing up with ballplayers the way most kids grow up with babysitters.
At some level, those memories made quite an impression. Brandon was, after all, "born in the clubhouse," as his father says. And in a way, he's never left.
"All I ever wanted to do was play baseball," says Brandon, who is rated the No. 26 high school baseball prospect in the country by SchoolSports.com and could be an early-round selection in June's MLB Draft. "I've dreamed about playing in the bigs ever since I could walk."
Never before has that dream seemed closer to reality than today.
Though he's been a standout since his freshman season, the hype really started gaining steam last spring when Brandon hit a blistering .456 with nine home runs, 31 RBI and 30 runs to lead Westfield to the Virginia AAA Concorde District title and the Northern Region crown.
Then came his dream summer. The LSU recruit helped lead the Midland Redskins to the Connie Mack World Series title and played on the USA Junior National Team in Taiwan. Playing for Team USA took on a special meaning to Brandon, who got to represent his country while playing with the top players in the nation.
"It was probably the best experience of my life, to go out and play for my country like that," Brandon says. "Name any big leaguer, and chances are they've done something for USA baseball. And to be able to beat out hundreds of kids to make that team — players who are really unbelievable — it opens your eyes to your talent."
It's hard to believe anyone's eyes were closed to Brandon's talent before he went to Taiwan, but he proved any doubters wrong once he got there. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder started all six games in Taiwan, leading the team with a .421 batting average. So on a team that collected All-Americans the way Lil Jon collects iced-out jewelry, Brandon was among the brightest stars of all.
"He really thrives on playing against the best, and being as good a player as he is, he really enjoys playing in front of big crowds," says Brian, who played for Team USA at the 1979 Pan Am Games. "I don't recall him ever not having a good at-bat where a lot was on the line."
And for Brandon, there has always been a lot on the line. He has always been the star, the one everyone looks to for the big hit. In fact, Westfield fifth-year coach Chuck Welch knew Brandon was going to be special right away.
"The power he had in his bat was evident as soon as he took the field," Welch says. "Even as a freshman, when Brandon took batting practice, people used to stop and watch him hit. Everyone knew he was different."
People have always thought Brandon might be a tad different. Brian first noticed his son's potential when Brandon whacked a Wiffle ball through a window when he was 3. Others always took note of the little kid smacking baseballs in the cages at Brian's Northern Virginia Baseball Academy, an indoor baseball facility he ran in Chantilly after retiring from the Braves.
Today, the people taking notice are scouts, who come in droves like kids chasing down an ice cream truck. And they all have requests. Fill out this form, take this test, hit with a wooden bat, run a 60-yard dash. And the list goes on.
This is where having a father who was drafted out of high school — Brian was originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 16th round of the 1976 draft — comes in handy.
Not only does Brandon's father know what it's like to be under constant scrutiny, but he also knows plenty of scouts from his own playing days. So it's been relatively easy for Brandon to develop a plan to deal with the pressure.
"Once I get to the ballpark, if the scouts are there, I'll talk to them," Brandon says. "But once I put that uniform on, they're not there. I don't see them, hear them or talk to them. If you focus on them, it's just way too much to handle."
But, as Brandon is quick to point out, having scouts and college recruiters all over you is a good problem to have. It might be a nuisance, but it's better than not having anyone interested in you and having to pay for college and work for a living.
There's little doubt what Brandon will be doing for a living. The only question is where he'll play.
He has spent most of his high school career at shortstop but is projected to play catcher at the next level. As long as he can step up to the plate, though, he doesn't care where you play him.
"I just like to hit, so as long as I can be in the lineup, I don't care," says Brandon, who has split time at catcher and shortstop this year and says catching comes more naturally to him.
Whoever coaches Brandon next year should have no problem finding a spot for him, that's for sure. Welch is confident Brandon, who has led Westfield in homers and batting average in each of the past three seasons, has a swing that will translate at the next level — whether that's in college or the minor leagues.
"He hits for average and power and doesn't have any holes in his swing," Welch says. "He's not only a fastball hitter or a curveball hitter or someone who can just hit the long ball. And he's a great athlete, which is intriguing to a lot of pro guys who want him as a catcher because he's not just some big guy back there who can't move."
Brandon Snyder can move, all right. In fact, he's on the fast track to the major leagues, hoping to complete a journey that began nearly two decades ago in big league parks just like the one he hopes to make his living in.