ATLANTA (AP) — It took a while for Brian Snitker to get his shot at being a big league manager.
He’s in no hurry to let it go.
The Atlanta Braves announced Friday they have extended Snitker’s contract through the 2023 season, with a club option for 2024.
Snitker is certainly worthy of the job security, having led the Braves to three straight NL East titles and within one win of a spot in the World Series last season.
The 65-year-old Snitker took over the Braves on an interim basis in 2016 and is heading into his fifth full season as the skipper.
“It feels good,” he said after Friday’s spring training workout in North Port, Florida. “I’m not one that worries about that kind of thing, honestly. If this was going to be my last year or whatever, I would give it everything I’ve got. But it’s nice, obviously, that someone thinks enough of you to extend that kind of package.”
Snitker has been with the Braves organization for 45 seasons as a player, coach and manager — mostly in the minor leagues — after signing with the club as an undrafted free agent in 1977.
When Fredi Gonzalez was fired early in the 2016 season, Snitker became one of the oldest first-time managers in big league history. He’s now the fourth-oldest manager in the majors behind Tony La Russa of the Chicago White Sox, Houston’s Dusty Baker, and Joe Maddon of the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite the age gap leading one of baseball’s most exciting young rosters, a group that includes 20-somethings Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Mike Soroka, Snitker has meshed well with his players while adapting to the analytics-driven style pushed by general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
“It’s refreshing being around all these guys,” Snitker said. “They keep keep me young and feeling good and wanting to come back. I stay energized from these players. And knowing and respecting how they go about it, and appreciating what they do, is a big thing that allows them to relax and just enjoy what they’re doing.”
Shortstop Dansby Swanson said Snitker’s vast experience at all levels of the game earns him the respect of the players.
“When you’ve seen it from so many difference angles, it allows you to know what the players like to do and how they see things,” Swanson said. “He’s grown as comfortable with us as we have with him. He’s always asking us about certain things. When you can have that direct dialogue, it’s definitely a fun working relationship.”
Plus, Snitker has shown a deft personal touch with his young players.
“We know he cares about us tremendously off the field as people,” Swanson said. “That stuff is important because we spend so much time together.”
Snitker took over when the Braves were in the midst of a massive rebuilding job, and few saw him serving a long-term role as manager.
But, after going 72-90 in his first full season, Atlanta won the first of its three straight division titles in 2018.
Last season, the NL MVP Freddie Freeman and the Braves won a postseason series for the first time since 2001, beating Cincinnati in the wild-card round and Miami in the divisional series before losing to the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers in an NL Championship Series that went the seven-game limit.
Atlanta led the series 3-1 before the Dodgers rallied to win the final three games.
“I am thrilled that Brian will continue to lead our club on the field and in the clubhouse,” Anthopoulos said in a statement. “Three consecutive division titles speak to the impact of Brian and his staff, and we are pleased that he will continue to guide our club through 2023.”
Snitker has an overall record of 353-317 (.527), which makes him the fourth-winningest manager since the franchise relocated to Atlanta in 1966. He’s far behind Hall of Famer Bobby Cox (2,058), but figures to go past Gonzalez (432) and Luman Harris (379) this season.
Snitker was voted NL Manager of the Year in 2018.
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