Matt Snyder is one player who is not toiling in the minor leagues to make just any team in the majors. He longs to be an Oriole.
"I'm very loyal to them for giving me a chance," said the Bowie Baysox closer. "When everybody else turned away, Baltimore gave me an opportunity. I'm very grateful for that."
Snyder is the stuff of which baseball dreams are made. Discovered at Essex Community College by director of player development Syd Thrift, Snyder was not picked in the 1995 June draft.
In the two years since, the starter-turned-closer has been a terror, averaging well above a strikeout an inning and currently leading the Double-A Eastern League with 15 saves. He is on the league All-Star team.
"I wouldn't want to give up what I'm doing," he said. "I love going out there with the game on the line, with the team in my hands. Saying to you, 'You're the one we want to trust with it,' is flattering."
Snyder blossomed last year at High Desert after abandoning his slider and starting to throw what Baysox manager Joe Ferguson describes as a "major-league curveball."
The combination of the breaker and a low-90s fastball can be devastating to hitters.
"Umpires have a tough time calling his curve," said Ferguson. "It breaks too much and too late. You look at his stuff and say, 'He should get everybody out.'
"But there is a tendency to forget how young he is as a pitcher," he said of Snyder, who will turn 23 tomorrow but is in only his second full season. "He's just a baby learning how to pitch hitters. When his mechanics are more consistent, he's going to be really tough."
Snyder grew up in Pennsylvania and wound up at Essex when his grades weren't good enough to get him into East Carolina.
After being signed, he doubted at first that he could compete with the pros.
"I was scared at first, didn't know what to do," he said. "I thought, 'You weren't going to get any breaks when you weren't drafted.' So I just went out there and threw. I think not being drafted made me work harder."
Snyder credits George Henderson, his coach at Essex, for instilling his feisty nature and Ferguson and pitching coach Larry McCall for refining him.
"He's doing very well in a short time," said Ferguson. "Sometimes he loses confidence like all young pitchers who think if they have a bad game they'll never pitch well again.
"But when he has it, he's really going to run through hitters."
Irabu draws a crowd
A record 14,485 fans watched Hideki Irabu have his problems with the Rochester Red Wings at Frontier Field last week.
P. J. Forbes singled on the first pitch and stole second on the second pitch against the Columbus pitcher, who went on to yield eight hits and four runs in five innings. He left leading 6-4, but the Wings rallied to win, 8-7.
Rochester, which went 10-17 during a June swoon, swept four from the Clippers and pulled back to within a half-game of first-place Pawtucket in the International League East.
Around the horn
Shortstop Aaron Ledesma had 10 hits for the Red Wings in the Columbus series and raised his average to .326. Rick Krivda (11-2, 3.12) is scheduled to start tomorrow night for Rochester but will still be available for an inning or two in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Tuesday. Rochester's Esteban Yan was the Orioles organizational Pitcher of the Month after going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in June. The Orioles signed ex-Oakland left-hander Doug Johns (11-15 in the majors) to replace Jimmy Haynes in the Red Wings' rotation. Bowie was involved in its second triple play in five days, hitting into one at Reading. Jim Foster, now with the Baysox, has combined minor-league stats of .359, 17 homers and 75 RBIs at Bowie, Frederick and Rochester. Bowie's Hut Smith was Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Bowie has opened its new parking lot behind the left-field fence. Pitcher Gavin Osteen, son of former Dodger Claude Osteen, has joined the Baysox. Frederick, first-half Carolina League division winner, started the second half with a 3-10 record. Chris Bryant has come off the Keys' DL, and Roberto Rivera has been assigned to Bluefield. Keys infielder Rick Short has been named Carolina League Player of the Month after hitting .429 in June. Delmarva's Ryan Minor was the Orioles organization Player of the Month for June after batting .333 with nine homers (two grand slams), 10 doubles and 28 RBIs. The Shorebirds were 17-8 for June with a 3.38 ERA from the pitching staff.
Pub Date: 7/06/97