Ed Grisamore

What do Macon, Illinois, and Macon, Georgia, have in common? A man named Brian Snitker

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker looks on from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Sept. 7 in Phoenix. Snitker was manager of the Macon Braves in 1992 and again in 1997 and ’98, winning back-to-back division titles at Luther Williams Field.
Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker looks on from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Sept. 7 in Phoenix. Snitker was manager of the Macon Braves in 1992 and again in 1997 and ’98, winning back-to-back division titles at Luther Williams Field. AP

I was a member of the Macon Lions Club for 10 years. Some of my fondest memories were the annual broom sales and weekly meetings at the old YWCA on Second Street.

The late Ed Holtz was a member of the club. He was general manager of the Macon Braves in the 1990s. He would arrive early at the Monday meetings to hold court, drink coffee and solve the problems of the world.

When I sat at his table, the lifelong baseball man would grab my arm.

“Hey! ‘’ he said. “It’s a double-Edder!’’

In January 1992, I was in charge of arranging guest speakers for the month. I mentioned to Holtz I was having trouble finding a program for the third week.

“No problem,’’ he said. “I’ll get ‘Snit’ for you.’’

“Snit” was Brian Snitker, who had been named manager for the upcoming season. In a few weeks, he would be heading to spring training and could talk about the prospects for the team.

Snitker had been Macon’s hitting coach the year before, when the team was led by a young infield prospect named Chipper Jones. You may have heard of him. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in July.

What I enjoyed most about Snitker’s talk was his reminiscing about growing up in “another’’ Macon. I went back to the office and made a note in the margin of the red journal I kept. I included it in a column the following week.

Snitker was manager of the Macon Braves in 1992 and again in 1997 and ’98, winning back-to-back division titles at Luther Williams Field.

So, this city has a special place in his heart. And, of course, so does his hometown of Macon, Illinois, 665 miles to the north.

There are six cities and towns in the U.S. named after North Carolina statesman Nathaniel Macon. Our Macon is the oldest and largest. The others, according to size, are in Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina.

Like our Macon, the tiny one in the Land of Lincoln is smack dab in the middle of the state.

Snitker was a catcher on the 1971 Macon High School baseball team, one of the most famous Cinderella teams in Illinois prep history. The Ironmen were a collection of farm boys who wore Caterpillar tractor caps with their uniforms.

They played for a small-town school of about 250 students and advanced to the all-classification championship game before losing to Waukegan, a suburban Chicago school with some 5,000 students.

The season was chronicled in a book by Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Ballard called, “One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach and a Magical Baseball Season.’’

Snitker no longer looks the same as he did during his days in the dugout at Luther Williams Field. The hair on his head and across his upper lip are gone.

But his steadiness is unchanged. He is one of the most likeable guys I ever have met in sports. His players love him, and they would run through an outfield wall for him. Just call it “True Snit.’’

And here he is — leading the Atlanta Braves onto the post-season stage and a leading candidate for National League Manager of the Year.

Snitker is a testament to everyone who believes good things come to those who wait and work hard. He is the nice guy you root for, having paid his dues and been rewarded for his loyalty as a member of the Braves organization for 42 years.

Macon is a chapter in his story.

Both of them.

Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon and is the author of nine books. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.

  Comments