As kids his age are enjoying the summer after their first year of college, Brandon Snyder is sitting on a bus preparing to play the Batavia Muckdogs, a single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. While the rising sophomores in college are checking out their spring grades, Snyder is taking batting practice.
A little over a year ago, the star Westfield baseball player was planning on attending Louisiana State University on a baseball scholarship until the Baltimore Orioles came calling.
Selected 13th overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the first-round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft, Snyder jumped right into a professional career playing baseball.
"Certainly he’ll miss the college experience, but there are a lot more kids that play college baseball and have that experience and wish that they have the experience to play professional baseball," said Westfield head baseball coach Chuck Welch, who coached Snyder during his four years at Westfield.
Snyder is currently playing for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The 19-year-old, who graduated from Westfield in 2005, is continuing a path that will hopefully take him to Camden Yards to play Major League Baseball.
"It’s difficult for a 19-year-old to adjust to," said Snyder’s father, Brian, who played professional baseball in Seattle and Oakland. "I don’t think playing was much of an adjustment, but the idea that it’s a job. That part of it is a little bit difficult."
SNYDER’S PATH started well before he graduated high school. Snyder came in as a freshman at Westfield as an accomplished player and joined the varsity team immediately.
"It’s like hitting the lottery getting somebody who is going to hit third or fourth in your starting lineup as a freshman," said Welch. "That’s a pretty awesome thing."
Snyder started for the team at shortstop and was the first freshman shortstop to make the all-Northern Region team.
"It was hard but at the same time, I expected it," said Snyder, of joining the varsity team as a freshman. "I just wanted to make sure that I gave myself the opportunity to play and once I got my chance, I never let it go."
Snyder continued his solid play throughout his sophomore and junior years at Westfield. After his junior season, in which the Bulldogs came up one run shy of a state championship, Snyder joined up with the Ohio-based Midland Redskins for the summer and played in the Connie Mack World Series. He also played baseball in Taiwan for the U.S.A. Baseball Junior National Team.
"From his junior year on, his play was extensive," said Brian Snyder.
Snyder continued his solid play in his senior year with Westfield, hitting over .500 with 29 RBI and 29 runs scored.
"He was the best player during a four-year period to come out of Northern Virginia," said Welch. "Some have had better single years, but he was consistently solid at the plate all four years.
THE CLOSER he was to graduation, the more frenzied the recruiting process became.
"It was a long process. From the outside looking in, it was exciting for a lot of people. Obviously I wouldn’t take it back, but it was a long process," said Brian Snyder. "We knew fairly early that he had the potential to be an elite athlete."
Snyder made sure that the process didn’t get in the way of his schoolwork, or his play on the field.
"I didn’t really look at the professional stuff until about a week beforehand," he said. "I really just focused on school and graduating."
But when school ended, the possibility of playing professional baseball became a reality. The first round draft pick was placed on the Bluefield Orioles and later joined up with the the IronBirds. Last year, Snyder hit .291 with 8 home runs and 41 RBIs in 52 games.
"It doesn’t hurt to be drafted by the hometown team," said Snyder. "I grew up watching the Orioles."
This year, Snyder started with the Delmarva Shorebirds but after an injury to his shoulder and a cold start with the bat, he was moved back to the IronBirds.
"He’s had a rough year but its all a learning experience," said his mother, Linda.
Snyder dislocated his shoulder swinging the bat and was placed on the 30-day disabled list.
"With the shoulder, there are good days and bad days but its just about staying in there," said Snyder, who is currently hitting .262 with nine RBIs and one home run in 23 games. "I’m just trying to stay healthy and get my body into shape to finish out the season."
HEAD CENTREVILLE coach Jonathan Frohm, who coached against Snyder when he was at Westfield, remembers the way Snyder prepared for a game during high school.
"He prepared for each game like a professional," said Frohm. "I had the opportunity to watch him play in Aberdeen recently and he carried himself the same way."
Snyder is quick to point out how his time at Westfield helped him prepare for where he is now.
"The biggest thing was having a great coach and having a great baseball program at Westfield and being able to progress as a baseball player," he said. "I think that Westfield does it the right way. It’s a great place to play baseball."
As for college, Snyder is guaranteed a full scholarship after he finishes his career in baseball – but he has work to do before then.
"He’ll help carry on a tradition of Baltimore baseball that we’re proud of," said Frohm.
Brandon Snyder is 49 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.