This afternoon I got the chance to spend some time in the Rainiers clubhouse (video room, actually) and speak with Chris Snelling. It was a bit hectic as Snelling had an extremely busy schedule shuffling me, KJR and another writer formerly of the Everett Herald. Snelling came off as a very intelligent, humble ballplayer. Everyone here at Lookout Landing appreciates Snelling's willingness to take some time to answer a few questions and Kevin Kalal's effort in helping facilitate this opportunity to sit down with everyone's favorite Tacoma outfielder. A thick Australian accent is not included. Sorry.
Just like the Chaves interview, you can listen to the session. It's divided into two sections as Snelling was required to take a call from KJR midway through. Click here for part one and right here for part two.
For the rest of you, the transcript is below.
Lookout Landing: OK, we're here with Chris Snelling here in the Tacoma clubhouse, outfielder for the Tacoma Rainiers. We're going to ask him a few questions today about his season so far, his fast start and his unfortunate injuries so far this season and in the past. First, just want to thank you Chris for taking the time today to sit down with us. First things first, how is your hand feeling?
Snelling: The hand is good. It's swollen up but other than that it's good. It could have been worse and, you know, I'm grateful that it wasn't.
LL: Hand injuries, however minor, can present some problems for any hitter. Do you find yourself having to compensate for any lingering pain when you swing right now?
S: Ah, no. I think the first day after it happened I tried to swing and I couldn't, but no, not anymore.
LL: If you can, can you walk us through what was going on in your mind when you saw that pitch coming right at you.
S: As soon as it hit me I was lying on the ground saying "please don't be broken, please don't be broken," and I mean I was kind of in shock when I took the batting glove off because it looked like I had an egg sitting underneath my hand. I told Rob [Nodine, Rainiers trainer] "hey, I think it's broken," because I couldn't really feel anything and I have had that feeling before. But as soon as I started touching my finger it felt pretty good, so, it's all good.
LL: Lost in the shuffle nowadays is that you're still recovering from your meniscus injury. Rohn's given you some time off to rest the knee lately - do you feel it's healing about as well as you hoped?
S: As far as I am concerned my knee is a non-factor as far as playing, but I'm still rehabbing it and making sure it's strong so it doesn't happen again. I mean, I'm able to play everyday.
LL: What's your general feeling on the slew of injuries, anyway? I mean, it's got to be frustrating to be in The Show, bust your knee, and then suddenly find yourself struggling to take the field in the minors due to a bunch of aches and pains. Do you think a lot of this stuff is just plain bad luck, or do you think it's a result of your max effort style of play?
S: I think it's probably a combination of both. And the fact that when something is sore, you know, I just try to play though it. Sometimes in the past I didn't really listen to my body and what it was telling me. As far as how I feel about what happened, things happen for a reason. Whatever reason that is, I think you'll find out later. I don't have any regrets and I don't really think about the past too much.
LL: What's really remarkable is that you've been able to jump out to an incredible start this year despite a few health problems. We're talking some of the best numbers that anyone has ever seen from a Mariner minor leaguer. How have you been able to come out of the gate so fast?
S: I wouldn't say I've come out of the gate real fast - there`s a couple at-bats that I've kind of wasted. And that's what I try to do, is just take each at-bat as if it's my last, well not my last, but, you know, take each at-bat the same and each approach the same. I think sitting out for two and a half years and watching the game I've learned a lot, the game within the game. I've worked on my swing a lot and I've worked really hard for this.
LL: Coming into 2005, is there anything you're working on specifically in order to develop as a better hitter?
S: Right now, I think I'm striking out too much. You know, I don't know why. I think my two-strike approach is all right but I think my two-strike approach could be better. That's probably something I could work on. My speed, obviously - I've lost a lot of speed with the amount of surgeries I've had on my knee - and the fact that I just got to stay healthy. I've got to make sure that I maintain my health and work hard at it.
LL: You've always had a terrific eye at the plate, and if you look at this year's OBP it's outstanding. Do you think this selectivity or patience - whatever you want to call it - is the most fundamental component of your success as a hitter?
S: I think that's probably the biggest difference - I'm taking a bit more pitches and maybe that's why I'm striking out a lot more. Whereas before I was a little more aggressive, especially in the early counts - 0-0, 1-0, 2-0 - but now I think I definitely got a bit more patience and I think I'm walking a little bit more too. The byproduct of a lot of strikeouts, I think, is a lot of walks, and vice versa.
LL: Whoever taught you to be so selective in the first place? Was there a specific coach or someone that you listened to early on in your career?
S: When I first started playing, I wasn't really selective. I think after sitting down and not playing for a while you kind of just say "how can I get better?" And I think that's one of the things personally I've tried to get better at, being a little bit more patient at the plate.
LL: You touched on this a little bit earlier, but fully to what extent do you feel the injury on your knee has had on your foot speed? Have you been able to compensate on that by taking better routes in the outfield? Is there anything you've been able to compensate with for the lack of speed after the surgeries?
S: Not really. I mean, I haven't played in a long time so I've really got to work on everything as far as running goes. I've had to teach myself how to walk about four times after four surgeries, so it's going to take baby steps as far as my speed goes. I think it will come back eventually. It's just a matter of getting my legs stronger and playing everyday.
LL: Do you ever sit back and think about how you may fit in with the Mariners, or is it just about playing everyday and letting things fall as they may?
S: I think my main focus right now is to just stay healthy and make it through this season. That's the bottom line. I really don't think about anything else other than that and winning.
The interview briefly broke off here as Kevin Kalal came in and handed Snelling the phone. He spoke with KJR on-air for a few minutes.
LL: We took a little break there as Chris had to talk to KJR on the radio for a few minutes. Going back to where we left off, do you feel as if you're competing with other outfielders in the system for the next available spot in the big leagues?
S: I think that's one approach that I try to avoid, simply because you can't control who gets called up or what happens in the big leagues. I mean, I've played with these guys for a long time and they become my friends, so if they get called up, I'm happy for them.
LL: Over the winter there was a little bit of panic among some of us about where you were because the team apparently couldn't get a hold of you and didn't know what was going on. But apparently, you were in Australia for two months, I heard hiking. Can you give us a little insight on where you were?
S: Yeah, I was in the middle of nowhere, pretty much just with my brother. We were sitting around at home and my brother, Tim, was free for a while and I had nothing to do. I said "wouldn't it be great to see some things and just get away?" And he said "all right, let's do it." The next day we jumped in the car and spent two months out in the middle of nowhere just walking around, climbing up mountains, walking along beaches and just getting away.
LL: While we're speaking about Australia, baseball I don't believe is the most popular sport out there. What introduced you to the game?
S: Well, I was born in Miami, and I always was a fan of baseball. I was a fan of the New York Mets and Howard Johnson. I think my passion for the game really grew up in Australia for the simple fact that that I wasn't a bad player but, you know, I was 15 and because there aren't many guys playing in Australia, I was playing against guys who had played in the big leagues before and they taught me a lot of things. I learned the game real young.
LL: Can you quickly walk us through what the feeling was like after being called up for the first time at such a young age? 19-20 years old and here you are on the phone with the general manager of the Mariners saying "hey, come on up, you're going to be playing left field for us." How did that make you feel?
S: I was shocked because the simple fact that I didn't think it would happen so soon. I felt like I had prepared myself for it. I think that's the biggest thing, if somebody wants to be called up they have to be prepared for it and I think I was. I think I was ready, and the rest is history, you know?
LL: Then the devastating injury that ended your tenure in Seattle for that year, at least. Going around third with the wave and then getting stopped and tearing your knee up. Were you bitter about that, or did you take it in stride? What was the feeling when that happened? I mean, here's your chance to shine in the MLB, and it kind of gets sidetracked for a little bit. How were you feeling after that?
S: Obviously, I was frustrated for the simple fact that I was there and I had and opportunity and I missed it. I can't control that, I mean the biggest thing my dad has taught me is that I can't control the things I can't control. I can only control getting my knee better, doing my rehab and getting back on the baseball field.
LL: People always want to see you on the field and playing well. I mean, obviously this year you've been almost unstoppable. It's been suggested in the past that you might be able to keep more healthy if you toned down your aggressiveness a little bit out there. Have you toyed with that idea in the last few seasons at all?
S: Yeah, I've definitely thought about it. After getting hurt seven or eight times, you kind of sit there and go "well, maybe they're right." And I think the bottom line is I can't change the way I play. You know, nobody can change who they are as a person or anything like that, and that's the way I play the game. There are some fears that I have - I mean, I do think about what happened when I tore my knee - and I'm trying to overcome that.
LL: If you could list your goals for the 2005 season, where do you want to see yourself at the end of the year?
S: Still on a baseball field. It doesn't matter where, but I [want to] walk away at the end of this season and my body's not in pain. Or if it is, hopefully it's not major. You know, I just want to play everyday and if I played a hundred and something games, I'm happy.
LL: Finally, to wrap this up, what the best piece of hitting advice anyone has ever told you and who was it?
S: I think the best piece of hitting advice I ever had was from a coach down in Australia named Andre Desjardins. He's actually a Canadian guy who moved to Australia. He basically told me that if you want to be good at this game then you're going to have to deal with failure. I think that's the biggest key for young guys when they get out of high school and they sign professionally. In high school they hit .400, .500. You're not going to do that in the minor leagues, and if you can learn how to deal with that and find success in failure then you're going to succeed.
LL: Well, Chris, I just want to say thank you again for sitting down and taking obviously a lot of time to sit here and talk to us. And good luck with the rest of the season. We all want to see you succeed.
S: Thanks, I appreciate it.