Mary Beth Nolan / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | 2 a.m.
At this point in his professional baseball career, highly touted prospect Travis Snider expected to be a regular in the big leagues.
But after failing to make the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster in spring training, the outfielder was reassigned to Triple-A Las Vegas to continue working on his swing.
So far, the decision is paying off for the 51s. Through 18 games, Snider is leading the team in several hitting categories including batting average, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
Snider is batting .405 and has hit safely in every game in which he’s played. He has four home runs, 23 RBIs and 10 doubles in showing the ability that made him a 2006 first-round draft pick.
“I’m just taking things one day at a time,” Snider said. “I established a pretty good routine in spring training and carried it over thus far in the season. I’m keeping that same mindset of knowing what I have to accomplish every day.”
Snider extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a line-drive, first-inning single to right field in the 51s’ 11-6 loss to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox Tuesday night at Cashman Field.
“The mechanical adjustments that I made last year carried over to this spring,” he said. “I’ve made those changes and now it’s about continuing to polish and refine my game, and to stay consistent.”
Snider, 24, has already enjoyed some big league success, belting 28 home runs with 104 RBIs in 232 games for Toronto in parts of four seasons.
“This organization thinks a lot of him,” 51s manager Marty Brown said. “He’s very much a leader. He’s only 24 but he’s been through an awful lot. He experienced a lot as a player. He realizes there is a certain way to play the game and he expects his teammates to do the same.”
Snider was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 29, 2008, and became the youngest position player in the majors. Less than a week later, he became the fourth youngest Blue Jay to hit a home run as the lefty launched his first career homer at Rogers Centre off Kevin Slowey of the Minnesota Twins.
On April 13, 2009, Snider became the youngest player in Blue Jays’ history to hit two home runs in a game as he again victimized the Twins.
On Aug. 1, 2010, Snider became the first Blue Jay player since 1978 to hit two doubles in one inning against the New York Yankees. Snider’s accomplishment helped Toronto tie the American League record for doubles in an inning with six.
Twice last July with the Blue Jays, Snider recorded a career best five RBIs in a game. Along the way, Snider learned a lot from his experience at the major league level.
Specifically, he said he learned to "deal with failure and looking at failure as an opportunity to learn. We’re all put into situations sometimes where we don’t excel or live up to our own expectations. How you handle that and go about the next step in your career is key.”
While he was beat out by Eric Thames for the Blue Jays’ starting left field spot in the spring, the 6-foot, 230-pound Snider knows there are plenty more at-bats and seasons to his career.
“The focus for me right now is controlling what I can control,” Snider said. “I’m continuing to refine my approach. I’m working on being a patient hitter and getting a good pitch to hit. When you do that, success tends to come easier than it does when you’re overly aggressive and pressing at the plate.”
He’s batting over .300 during his minor league career and feels he will eventually duplicate the success in the major leagues.
“As a manager, it’s a joy to have him — to have a guy who is going to step up and make sure other people are doing the right thing," Brown said. “He helps get them prepared to play the right way and I can depend on him every time he puts on a uniform.”
As a player with big league experience, Snider has taken on a leadership role in the clubhouse and has enjoyed the occasion of serving as a mentor to some of his fellow teammates.
“I look at being here in Triple-A, as a relatively young guy with some experience, as an opportunity to help some other guys,” he said. “We’ve got some young prospects on this team who will be playing in the major leagues hopefully for a long time. Any kind of advice that I can give to them along the way to help smooth out the speed bumps and learning curves is rewarding.”