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‘Coach’ Matt Snyder at Home in Oxford

By Jeff Roberson
HottyToddy Contributor

Matt Snyder was at spring training in Florida earlier this year, which isn’t unusual for the veteran of baseball wars. But this time things were different.

Matt Snyder crossing the plate. Photo courtesy of OleMissSports.com
The Centreville, Va., native was preparing not to play baseball but to coach it. He was a “rookie” again, this time viewing the world of baseball through an entirely different lens.

His opportunity actually came, in part, because of his years in the Yankees organization, but that’s not who he’s coaching within his initial season. That would be the Marlins.

So what does all this mean?

Snyder had spent several seasons in the Yankees family but experienced quite a number of injuries and surgeries, so much so that he could never get over the proverbial hump. According to him, the reason he is coaching is because those in the Yankee organization saw his work ethic and determination to return to the playing field.

Still doesn’t make sense that he’s a Marlins coach? Front office staffers from those Yankee years, including Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, are now running things in Miami.

“Every time I would finish my rehab, this was going to be my year,” said Snyder, who played his last season at Ole Miss eight years ago. “Just stay healthy, but then something would happen. If I’d stayed healthy I would have been fine. But I just could not stay healthy, and it kept going for six years.

“(The Yankees) stuck with me. They were unbelievable,” he continued. “They knew if I could have finally stayed healthy, I would have been in New York. It was literally like having your dream in your hand and it falling out every single time. But they gave me opportunities.”

Those Yankee connections got him in a Marlins AAA uniform in New Orleans in 2019, which turned out to be his last season as a player.

“Last year in my last game in New Orleans, we were playing Fresno,” he said. “In that game, my hamstring popped.

“(The Marlins) told me they couldn’t keep me on the field (as a player) but they could keep me in the dugout. I’ve always wanted to coach. So that’s how it happened.”

Snyder is the hitting coach for the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings, an A affiliate of the Marlins.

“We were in spring training getting ready for the season, and then everything stopped,” he said.

Coaching would have to wait. He headed home to Oxford where he and his wife, Merrie Claire, have a house.

Merrie Claire is a former Ole Miss Diamond Girl from Brandon. They were married in Oxford last November. She is a speech pathologist with the Water Valley School District and has been for a few years.

The two started dating back in Matt’s final year of college, “and it was mostly a long-distance relationship since then,” he said because of his baseball playing years.

Before they started dating, Matt recalls bumping into Merrie Claire Barnes, literally, and even then, things still turned out fine.

“I was running and I ran into her at home plate. She was picking up a bat,” he said. “I really felt bad about that.”

During Snyder’s first two seasons at Ole Miss, it was his home state school that was a part of the Rebels’ postseason experiences. In 2010, his sophomore year, the Rebels played in Virginia’s Charlottesville Regional. The year before, when he was a freshman, the Cavaliers were in Oxford for a Super Regional.

“Our team was special that year,” Snyder said of 2009. “Those older guys were incredible. All those guys were just really good dudes. They treated all of us young guys really well. It was such a fun team. To win our Regional and host a Super Regional with that atmosphere was unbelievable. The crowds were just insane. It was definitely an experience that got me locked into Ole Miss baseball for sure.”

That was also back when Matt’s twin brother, Michael, was on the team. They had arrived in Oxford together as freshmen and two years later Michael transferred to Florida Southern College. After those two years of being teammates at Ole Miss, Matt said it was tough to see Mike leave.

“Our freshman year we roomed together in Deaton Hall, and then our sophomore year I lived with Smitty (Matt Smith) and he lived with Jordan King and Eric Callender. When he left it was tough. It was really tough. I think he felt he had a better opportunity to play at Florida Southern. He did well and hit a ton of home runs. I wish he would have stayed another year here just to see what would have happened.”

Michael played in the minors for several years. In Pearl with the AA Braves, he tore his ACL and that ended his career. That was in 2018.

“He hit a triple, which is not very heard of for a Snyder to do,” Matt said. “The ball got away from the catcher, and somehow the ball bounced back and (Michael) tried to turn around to go back – and there it (ACL) went. So after that, he retired. He’s worked a lot since then in my dad’s baseball facility back home in Virginia with lessons and camps and helping him out. He also works in construction with a metal company. So he’s back home.”

The Snyders are a baseball family for sure. Their father, Brian, played in the majors and owns Snyder Baseball Academy in Virginia. Matt and Mike’s brother, Brandon, played in the majors and is currently in the Nationals organization. He’s three years older than his twin siblings.

Ironically in the final game of Matt’s playing career, when he popped his hamstring in New Orleans, Brandon was playing for Fresno in that game.

Matt thought the big leagues were in his future, and likely they would have been. But he never could sustain his health. His body didn’t cooperate. Sometimes it simply was the wrong place, wrong time – the wrong moment in time.

“After my junior year (at Ole Miss), I went home,” he said. “The scouts said I was going to go in the top ten rounds. I was excited. I was doing summer ball just to get some wood at-bats before the draft. My third at-bat in summer ball, a lefty threw me a 92 mile per hour fastball and it hit me square in the cheek. It shattered everything, all those bones, the bones that hold my eye up, broke my jaw. They airlifted me to the hospital. I had to wait two weeks for the swelling to go down to even have surgery.

“That was like three days before the draft when it happened. The Nationals drafted me in the 24th round as a draft and follow.”

Although he played later that summer, things just didn’t work out for him to go pro at that time.

“So I said, ‘I guess I’m going back to school.’ And I headed back to Ole Miss. I came back and had the best year of my life, and it cemented how much I love Ole Miss and Ole Miss baseball. My senior year was unbelievable. It was an amazing time.”

That season – 2012 – ended for the Rebels at the NCAA Regional in College Station, Texas.

This year, even from spring training, Matt knew how good the Rebels were playing. He was keeping up from afar. After his season was called off, he was hoping to be able to catch some Ole Miss games.

“That same week they were playing LSU, and I always got pumped to play LSU,” he said. “I was looking forward to seeing them play. But then they called off SEC games and everything else. So that didn’t work out to get to see them play.”

But now he and Merrie Claire are home in Oxford anyway, and like everyone else, finding things to do as life takes a break from “normal.”

“We’re putting together a home gym,” Matt said. “There’s no place to go workout, and we’ve been trying to put it together here at the house. There’s a lot more to it than we first thought.”

Kind of like waiting out a global pandemic to go coach pro baseball for the very first time, which is what Matt Snyder will do when the world opens up for business once more.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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