The dream of becoming a professional baseball player and rubbing shoulders with people like Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa became a reality for Brandon Snyder, 18, of Centreville.
The Baltimore Orioles chose the Westfield High senior 13th overall in the Major League Baseball amateur draft last week. He also received a signing bonus of $1.7 million.
"IT'S GREAT. I've put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. I was always outside practicing, or lifting weights. I would go every day after school and catch ground balls and practice," said Snyder. "I grew up around baseball; everything that I did was about baseball. Baseball is all I've ever wanted to do."
The tenuous start date is set for July 1, when Snyder will report to the Bluefield Orioles, which play in Bluefield, WV.
He had originally planned on playing baseball at Louisiana State University after high school, and had studied hard to keep his grades up. But even now Snyder said that all of the studying was still worth it.
"It was hard, but it worked out well. I got good grades so that I could get a scholarship. That was something I worked hard for, it was definitely worth it," said Snyder.
The young star hasn't been affected much by the publicity. He just takes it in stride.
"I think that it's fun. I think it's something that comes with being a professional athlete. We just take it one day at a time," said Snyder, who recounted his first press conference, complete with cameras, microphones and reporters. "I thought it was a blast. It was so much fun to be brought up on stage and recognized."
Snyder lives with his parents — Brian and Lisa, and his younger twin brothers Mike and Matt, 14, and his older sister Sarah, 25, in Centreville.
"I have a financial advisor now; we will probably invest most of [the money]," Snyder said. "I might get myself a truck or something for myself. But it's not about the money, it's about baseball."
Brandon's father Brian — who pitched in the majors for the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A's — describes what it takes to be a professional athlete: "A lot of times people take it for granted. It takes a heck of a lot of talent and a lot of hard work and even a little bit of luck."
"He was very fortunate going through SYA that he had some very good coaches. He also had the chance to play with some good players," said his father.
BRANDON ALSO played as a catcher at Westfield High, where he batted .547 and scored 29 runs last season. He also helped lead the team to a regional championship in 2004. He doesn't expect his position with the Bluefield Orioles to change.
Welch, 47, has been a coach at Westfield High since it opened five years ago. He coached at Langley High for 17 years before that. In all of his time coaching, he knew that Brandon was unique.
"He's always been a little different," Welch said. "Brandon has known before he came that he has goals. Playing professional baseball has been more of a goal than a dream of his. He's willing to put in the time and the effort to reach these goals. He's not afraid to work hard to get there."
He recalled the atmosphere when they found out that Brandon had been signed to the Orioles.
"It was very exciting and very emotional. The best thing of all is that it's great to have good things happen to good people. It's great to see this happen to Brandon," said Welch.
Watching Brandon at batting practice with the Orioles brought back memories of the first time he showed up for tryouts at Westfield as a freshman.
"Just the way that he handled himself at batting practice with the big-leaguers. I saw the same thing four years ago. He just fit in, he belonged, he believed in himself. I am very convinced that he will play big-league ball someday," Welch said. "The program is very proud of him."
For Brian, watching his son sign with the Orioles is a vindication for all the hard work and time his son spent practicing baseball and studying in school.
"It was satisfying to see such a positive outcome for all the hard work he did," Brian Snyder said. "You try to instill in your kids a sense that if you work hard enough good things will happen. I am glad it happened for Brandon."