Snyder Hoping 2007 Is Second To None

After missing the entire 2005 season, Brian Snyder was determined to make a splash in 2006. Unfortunately, he got off to a slow start for Midland in 2006 and ended up being sent down to Stockton by mid-season. Snyder is back in Midland for the 2007 campaign, playing at a new position and ready to prove that he is the same hitter who posted a 905 OPS for Kane County in 2004.

The 2007 season will present a whole new set of challenges for Oakland A's 2003 first round pick Brian Snyder. He is starting the year at Double-A Midland, where he is looking to prove that last season's .205 batting average for the Rockhounds was a fluke. Snyder is also learning a new position, making the sometimes difficult move from third base to second base.

"The first day of spring training Liepp [Keith Lieppman, A's farm director] called me into his office with Sparky [Joe Sparks, A's Major League advance scout] and they said that they thought it was just going to be a better move for me, that I had lost a lot of weight and that I had been moving a lot better. They thought it was something that could really help me," Snyder said.

"From the first day of spring training on, I worked with Juan [Navarette, the A's roving fielding instructor] on getting to know second base and it has worked out really well so far."

The A's selected Snyder in the first round in 2003 out of Stetson University, where he was the most prolific hitter in team history. He had a strong first full season in the A's system, batting .311 with a remarkable .421 on-base percentage in 101 games for the Kane County Cougars. The only negative that season for Snyder was that he missed 30 games with injuries, a trend which would carry over into the 2005 season. During the 2005 spring training, Snyder suffered a major leg injury which kept him off of the field for virtually the entire season.

He returned to action in 2006 healthy and feeling confident that he would be able to pick up where he left off of in 2004. However, he got off to a slow start at Double-A Midland and was hitting below the .200 mark as late as mid-May. He picked up his pace in mid-May and had raised his batting average above the .200 mark and his on-base percentage to .370 by mid-June. Despite those improvements, the A's decided that Snyder could use some time in High-A and he was sent down to Stockton right around the All-Star break.

Snyder hit better in Stockton, although he still never reached the level that he had achieved in 2004. He finished his stint in Stockton with a .279 batting average and 42 runs scored in 63 games. Snyder says that he learned a lot from his struggles last season.

"I think that the big thing is that I'm not putting too much pressure on myself [this season]. Last year, missing a whole year and then coming back, I put a whole lot of pressure on myself. Then being sent down to Stockton, I put even more pressure on myself because I wanted to get back up here to Double-A to prove to everybody that I was a good hitter," Snyder said.

Snyder is off to a good start for the Rockhounds. He has started four of the Rockhounds' first five games, and all of his starts have come at second base. Although the transition from playing a corner infield spot to playing a double-play position can be a difficult one, Snyder has enjoyed the new position thus far.

"So far, so good. You know, it is probably one of those things that if I had made a couple of errors, I probably wouldn't have liked it, but everything has gone pretty smooth, so I am liking it," Snyder said.

"At the beginning it was [difficult to learn the new position]. Every throw is different from the left side of the infield. But I worked through that with just a lot of repetition to get comfortable and stuff like that around the bases and that made it a little easier."

At the plate, Snyder has gotten off to a good start, as well. He had two hits on Opening Day and he hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the ninth inning of Midland's second game. Through Wednesday, two of his four hits have gone for extra bases and he has scored five runs. Snyder admitted that it felt good to hit that homer after his struggles last season.

"Yeah, to hit a ball like that off of Chris Perez, who I know is a good pitcher, felt good. He wouldn't be in Double-A in his first full year if he wasn't something special to the Cardinals. It just gives you the confidence, I guess, that you can hit off of anybody in any situation because it was really cold that night," Snyder said.

Snyder and his Midland teammates have had to deal with more than tough opponents in the early season; they have also had to deal with wintry weather. Midland had two games snowed out and other washed away by a thunderstorm. Despite the bad weather, the Rockhounds were off to a 4-1 start through Wednesday. Snyder, a Florida native, called the Rockhounds' second game one of the coldest games he had ever played in.

"The first game was alright, but in the second game, I was as miserable as I have ever been. I think it was 30 degrees and with the West Texas wind and it was misting on top of that, it was just miserable. We got snowed out the next two day and then the next three games we played against Little Rock, the weather was actually pretty nice. It was amazing that we went from snow one day to sunny and 75 the next," Snyder said.

Snyder is hoping that his good start this season will lead to a similar kind of turnaround for his fortunes at Double-A.

"This year, I'm just sort of taking it all for what it is worth. I'm more relaxed at the plate and I'm taking the approach that if I see a good pitch, I'm going to put a good swing on it and whatever happens, happens," Snyder said.

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