Patrick Teale

Tampa Yankees first baseman Matt Snyder looks to bounce back from an injury-shortened 2016 campaign.

TAMPA, FL -- Tampa Yankees first baseman Matt Snyder has been consistently on and off the disabled list throughout his time in the Yankees organization ever since his tenth round selection back in 2010. He's proven in between those DL stints, however, to be one of the better offensive players but more than anything he's looking to put his injury-marred days behind him.

“It’s been five surgeries with the Yankees,” Snyder said candidly.  “Most teams don’t give people the chance, so it says a lot about the Yankees.”

Snyder, who has had one freak injury after another dating back to his college days at the University of Mississippi, played just eight games last season before rupturing a tendon in his ankle.  The rupture required him to have season ending surgery.

“I’m not exactly sure how I got hurt to be honest,” he said.  “I think it was just that I like to work out a lot and it may have been just a little too much for the body and the tendons probably couldn’t handle that.”

Surgeries like the one Snyder had usually take up to a year to fully recover from.  Although it has only been a little more than six months, Snyder is no stranger to the training room and the rehab process.

“There are some things that hurt just a little bit more than the other and certain days are better than others so you just got to get used to that,” said Snyder, who has played in 20 of the team's 28 games so far. “I’m used to playing with a lot going on so it’s just something I’ve got to be patient with.”

Not all of Snyder’s injuries had such a hidden cause.  His 2015 season was cut short after a fastball broke his forearm.  He had just returned that week too after a torn tendon in his thumb put him out for over a month.

Although there are a lot of factors that go into making a solid season, Snyder admits that he’s only got one goal in mind.

“To be healthy,” Snyder said emphatically.  “I want to prove the Yankees right.”

Snyder, who wants to re-pay the Yankees for their patience of the years, is playing as an everyday starter this season for the most part, and with the help of his coaches and teammates it looks like he’s getting back into the swing of things.

“Eric Duncan, our hitting coach, he’s amazing,” Snyder said  “He’ll get in there whenever you want and he’ll work with you”.

“Matt looks tremendous,” said Eric Duncan, the Tampa Yankees hitting coach.  “He works his tail off and he knows himself well as a hitter.”

Snyder, still trying to work up his endurance, performed well during Spring Training but he only got a limited amount of play time in because he was still recovering from his injury.

“I missed a lot of Spring Training games but I knew that was going to happen,” Snyder admitted.  "I was a little disappointed because I wasn’t able to get out there and play with the guys as much.”

Despite missing a good bit of Spring Training camp, Snyder has still gotten off to a relatively strong start.  He's hitting .250 with a team-high six doubles and thee home runs thus far and Duncan has high hopes for Snyder’s 2017 season, especially after seeing what he could of him in Spring Training.

“Matt got brought along a little bit differently because of his injury past,” Duncan said, “and he worked extremely hard and extremely well during Spring Training.  His big thing is timing and getting his body sync backed up with the game speed.  With him it really is a matter of staying healthy.”

Snyder has already played in more games in the first month of this season than he did in all of 2016 -- a lot more -- and his manager, Jay Bell, appreciates the hard work Snyder put into making sure he came back healthy this season.

“Here’s a guy that loves playing baseball,” Bell said, “loves being around the game, really enjoys his teammates, always has a good positive mindset in approach to the game, and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

It is this positive mindset that coach Bell thinks is the key for Snyder making his path towards the majors.

“A lot of things go into making it to the big leagues,” said Bell, who played parts of 18 seasons in the Major Leagues.  “Health and maintaining a good mind as far as the way he approaches the game is extremely important.”

Despite Snyder’s checkered injury history, Bell is optimistic about being able to keep him in the day-to-day lineup this season.

“He’s done a great job for us,” Bell said.  “Hopefully the way I play him will allow him to stay out on the field and stay healthy all year long.”

Even though it is still only the first month of the season, Snyder’s bat has shown some real life at the plate.  He’s already smacked nine extra-base hits and coach Bell has noticed the pop.

“He’s been a major part of our lineup offensively,” Bell said.  “He’s been one of the bright lights that has had some success in the early part of the season.”

Strong start or not, Snyder though understands in the end it all comes down to health and he for one is extremely grateful he keeps getting the opportunities he gets to show what he can do when healthy enough to play.

“I grew up the biggest Yankees fan ever.  It’s really just waking up knowing that I get to even just put on something Yankees [related], it makes it a hundred times easier [coming back from injuries],” he concluded.

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