Snider ready to regroup, reshape in Minors
Blue Jays outfielder will begin working way back to Majors
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Travis Snider sat patiently and watched alongside more than 200 fellow ballplayers while the Blue Jays handed out their annual Minor League Awards on Friday morning at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
It's an event that Snider once took a leading role in, having won two R. Howard Webster Awards as the Most Valuable Player for Pulaski of the Appalachian League in 2006 and Class A Lansing in '07.
This year, Snider acted as a silent observer for the two-hour ceremony just days after having lost Toronto's starting left field job to Eric Thames. It's the fifth time in three years that Snider has been optioned to the Minors, and even though there has to be a high level of frustration associated with that, Snider isn't about to point any fingers.
"I don't have anyone to blame but myself. It's a performance-based game and business, and when you don't perform there are going to be people waiting to take your job," Snider said. "Accepting that was part of my offseason, realizing it was time to shift gears a little bit and come in with a little different mindset from years past, when it was, 'Here it is, it's your job,' versus now you're competing for a job, you're fighting to get back up to the big league level and establish yourself as an everyday big league player.
"I don't think it was necessarily a hitch in the confidence or ego, so to speak, just being realistic with the situation and developing the right mindset so coming into it, the emotions, feelings aren't getting hurt. This is a business, I know what I can bring to the table, and concentrating on what I can control has kind of been my motto all Spring Training, and will be throughout the rest of my career."
Snider was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft at the ripe age of 18. It was a rare move by then general manager J.P. Ricciardi, whose preference for college players was well-documented during his eight-year tenure in Toronto.
Ricciardi's track record in the Draft was often criticized by the Toronto media because high picks such as Russ Adams, David Purcey and Zach Jackson never quite panned out, but Snider was supposed to be different.
Snider responded right out of the gate with an incredible start to his professional career and rose through the ranks in relatively no time at all. The native of Kirkland, Wash., finished the 2007 season in Lansing and was ranked the 11th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America.
The following year he ascended through three different levels before reaching the Majors at age 20. It seemed like nothing could stop him -- but then something did.
For the next three seasons, Snider struggled with consistency and bounced back and forth between the Majors and Minors. He's a career .248 hitter with a .730 OPS, but never received more than 300 at-bats in one season to showcase his talents at the big league level.
To this day, Snider has only appeared in 232 games with Toronto, and while that could cause many prospects to speak out against their organization, Snider declines to go down that path.
This spring, Snider lost out to Thames, who took his job in 2011 and proceeded to hit .321 in 19 Grapefruit League games. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Snider to break north with the team and something he came to grips with maybe even before Spring Training actually began.
"I had a pretty good feeling that was going to be the decision that was made," Snider said of the end result. "I thought Eric had a great camp in perspective of the competition, I had to come away and tip my cap and understand coming down here is not to feel sorry for myself, or feel like I got screwed out of something.
"It's more an opportunity to come play every day, get my at-bats, continue to develop as a complete player and have fun with a great staff and a great group of guys."
Snider, who is still only 24 and far from being done, will head to Triple-A, where he will continue working with Chad Mottola -- Las Vegas' hitting coach who was responsible for overhauling the outfielder's mechanics at the plate last season.
Snider now holds his hands at a lower position in the batter's box, which enables him to attack pitches that previously would have gone by his bat and straight through to the catcher's mitt.
The altered approach was on display this spring as Snider left camp tied for the team lead in homers (four) while posting the most RBIs (16). His next chance in the big leagues will come -- just not now -- and until it does he'll wait with that same patient approach he demonstrated at the Bobby Mattick on Friday.
"I think you can control what you can control," Snider said. "You go out there, you put up your numbers, you play your backside off and you leave it all out there on the field. If I walked away with any thought in my mind, I wish I would have done this, there was none of that.
"The goals are there, the focus is there, I took a couple of days off to kind of regroup, get some things organized for going to Las Vegas to start the season and come here with an attitude of ready to work and ready to continue to grow and develop as a player."