Brian Snyder: Healthy And Ready To Roll

A's prospect Brian Snyder entered spring training last year on a wave of momentum. After a 2004 season during which he posted a 905 OPS for Kane County and watched top A's third base prospect Mark Teahen get traded, Snyder began camp as the A's top prospect at the hot corner. However, a freak injury during a routine fielding drill before a spring training game cost him his entire season. We caught up with Snyder to find how he is recovering from his injury and what he is expecting out of 2006.

It happened on a routine groundball. Third baseman Brian Snyder leaned down to field it and just like that, his 2005 season was over. A partially torn groin and an injured hip flexor left the Stetson University alum on the shelf for all but one game during 2005. Now Snyder is hard at work on the comeback trail and aims to be back to form in 2006.

"I'm feeling great and am finally back to 100% again and I'm feeling like I'm back in the groove," Snyder said early this week from his hometown of Wellington, Florida, where he is training for the season.

Originally, Snyder believed that the injury would only keep him out of action for a few months of the season. However, an attempt to get back into game action with the A's Rookie League team was aborted after only two at-bats when the pain returned.

"I was feeling pretty good. I knew I wasn't going to be 100%, but I thought it would be good enough to be able to play through it. However, I was rounding third [in the first game] and it didn't feel right and the coach could tell it didn't look right. Rather than push it, they decided to shut me down for the rest of the year so I could be completely healthy long-term," Snyder said.

Before the injury, Snyder had been having a great spring. He was invited to participate in his first major league spring training camp and was enjoying the chance to soak up the big league atmosphere.

"Playing at major league camp was an awesome experience, probably my greatest experience in baseball. Being with all of the guys and taking groundballs with a five-time Gold Glover like Eric Chavez was just amazing," Snyder said.

"I gained so much knowledge from watching how all of them worked. I especially learned from watching Chavez. Seeing someone of his caliber and how he handles himself teaches you a lot about what it takes to be a big-time big leaguer."

Snyder also spent a lot of time during camp working with A's infield coaching guru Ron Washington on his glove-work at third.

"We did most of our work after the games. Wash has the most infield knowledge of anyone I've ever met in baseball. I've never been so confident as I was when I left big league camp," Snyder said.

Snyder would love to have a chance to work with Washington and to watch Chavez up close again this spring, but he knows that missing a full season means that it will be unlikely that he will be invited to big league camp again this spring. However, he is working hard to be in the best shape he can be for the 2006 season.

"This is my career. I took it seriously before, but I think missing a whole year gives you a different perspective about how hard you really have to work to succeed," Snyder said.

Snyder has completely changed his off-season program in an attempt to guard against injuries. He has been working with a personal trainer three times a week on running, agility drills and core strengthening exercises. He has also been lifting weights four times a week and has changed his diet to eliminate bad foods. In addition, Snyder has cut-out partying.

"My goal for this year to is get back to where I was at the end of the 2004 season because I felt like I had a really good year. I also want to finish out the season healthy and with no injuries," Snyder said.

Snyder's 2004 season gave the A's a lot to get excited about. The right-handed hitter had one of the best offensive seasons in the A's system, batting .311 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging percentage. The 2003 first round pick had established himself as the A's top third base prospect, and many were expecting a huge year from Snyder in 2005. Instead, Snyder joined fellow top prospects Dan Meyer and Landon Powell as players who missed significant development time last season.

Snyder was set to begin the 2005 season at AA-Midland before the injury struck. He is hoping that the A's will send him to AA, but he knows that wherever he begins the year, he is going to have to guard against being over anxious after missing so much time.

"I think the biggest adjustment for me next year will hopefully be playing everyday and trying not to do too much too soon just because I missed a year. The last thing I want to do is push it too much, too quickly to make up for lost time," Snyder said.

Snyder has a lot of people rooting for him to comeback strong in DeLand, Florida, where he went to college. Snyder was the highest draft choice ever taken out of Stetson University.

"When you get to accomplish something that no one else has done, you take great pride in it. It definitely pushes me," Snyder said.

"I want to make it to the big leagues for myself and my family, but I also really want to make it for Stetson. I know they are pulling for me and I don't want to let them down."

Snyder grew up rooting for the Atlanta Braves and idolizing fellow third baseman Chipper Jones. Since being drafted, Snyder has developed a fondness for the A's organization, as well.

"The A's are a great organization. From talking to guys I train with who are in different organizations, I can tell that the A's have more of a family atmosphere then most teams do. Other guys say that it is really business-like on other teams, but from the moment you get here, you can tell that the A's really care about you as a person," Snyder said. "I think that Liepp [Keith Lieppman, A's Director of Player Development] cares a lot about you succeeding as a baseball player, but he also cares a lot about how you grow as a person. I think he's just as proud of the guys who succeed off the field as he is of the successes on the field. I think baseball could use more guys like the ones with the A's."

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