Baseball helps Snider cope

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Baseball carried Travis Snider through a year of grief.

Now, the 19-year-old from Mill Creek, one of the top prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system, needs time with his family. He needs time with himself, time to mourn.

In the past year, Snider’s mother was killed in an auto accident and his grandmother died. Last week marked the first anniversary of his grandfather’s death. Four years ago this week, one of Snider’s best friends died, and he recently learned that one of his former summer league coaches is critically ill.

“This year has been so crazy with everything that’s happened,” he said last week in the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium, where he played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. “You look at life and the way things happen, and you’ve just got to take it for what it is. I try to play every day in honor of my mom, my grandma, my grandpa.”

Through it all, Snider gives his thanks.

He appreciates all that his family and friends have done to help him strive to become a major leaguer. He praises the Blue Jays for the support and understanding that helped him get through a season that was an unqualified success statistically and an unquestioned challenge personally.

He thanks God for baseball.

“Baseball saved me,” he said. “I don’t know what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have this right here. Having baseball to go to every day for the last 11 months has been huge, just to get my mind off the things that have happened.

“Once I step into the clubhouse, this is my job. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else and I know all those who’ve passed on before me wouldn’t want me doing anything else. This is my career. This is my life.”

When the Scorpions played their final game last Thursday, Snider ended the longest baseball season of his life.

He’d batted .313 with 16 home runs and 93 RBI for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts, then joined the Scottsdale team in the six-week Arizona Fall League, which features many of the best minor leaguers from every major league organization.

As one of three 19-year-olds in the league, Snider spent the fall learning left field after playing in right his first two minor league seasons. He handled the competition well, batting .316 with four home runs, 11 RBI and six doubles.

“A big goal for me was just to come down here and compete at this level,” he said. “I wanted to improve defensively and other areas where I struggled this year during my first full season. Hopefully they’re satisfied with how I performed down here. I’m satisfied.”

After the Scorpions won their fall finale over the Peoria Javelinas, Snider was ready to give baseball a break until spring training.

He also was ready to turn his mind solely to the family and friends he has lost and those who mourn with him.

Snider and his mother were close.

When he was a freshman at Jackson High School in 2002, Patty Snider fell into a coma after a bout with pneumonia. Fearing she might not survive that illness, he vowed to dedicate himself to become a major leaguer.

Patty Snider recovered and proudly followed her son’s rise as a high school star, a coveted draft pick by the Blue Jays and his two successful minor league seasons.

Then, on the night of Sept. 9 this year, she was driving north on the Mukilteo Speedway and, according to police reports, veered into the path of oncoming traffic. She suffered fatal injuries.

Travis Snider grieved, then packed his bags and went to Scottsdale, back to baseball. Months earlier, he’d done the same after his grandmother’s death.

Now he’s back home for a few weeks with his family — father Denne, sister Megan, aunts, uncles and close friends. This a time of mourning, and he’ll do that with his family and alone.

“I don’t look at it as being a tough thing to do,” he said. “I’ll spend some time thinking and trying to mourn and dealing with things in a healthy and responsible way.”

He will take a trip to Cabo San Lucas and cleanse his mind.

“That’s where I’ve spent eight of the 19 years in my life with my family — with my grandma, my grandpa, my mom,” Snider said. “It’ll be a time to think about and understand what’s going on in my life, to remember the good times with the people I’ve lost and what kind of influence they’ve had on my life, and how I can honor them every day with what I do on the field and off the field. I feel very confident that I’ll get through it and my family’s going to get through it. It’s going to make us stronger.

“This is going to be a good offseason for me.”

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