Snider true to his roots

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 PM ET

TORONTO - You can add up the strikeouts.

You can figure out his average with men in scoring position, if you want.

Travis Snider is a ball player I admire.

Not because of his re-adjusted swing and not because of his quick return from triple-A Las Vegas.

Or his catch against the fence in the third inning Wednesday night on a Nick Swisher drive against the out-of-town scoreboard ... just as the scoreboard graphics flashed from one game to another.

I admire Snider because I lost my father at age 19, my mother six months later, and was angry at the whole world.

Snider lost his mother, Patty, at age 19 and was angry at the world, too.

Lonely road

It’s a lonely road to travel.

Besides losing his mother when the outfielder at class-A Lansing in 2007, he lost his only living grandparents Lois and James Kenny. He lost one of his summer ball coached Jason Morris.

“I’ve had anger issues in the past,” Snider said, who enrolled in anger management in high school when his mother was ill and talks to a sports psychologist when issues arise.

Snider’s father, Denne, was one proud papa getting ready, from Bothell, Wash., to watch his son and the Jays open the unofficial second half of the season against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre.

“I don’t really know if I can explain how proud I am, but seeing your son play in the majors is a dream come true, especially when you think back to him learning to walk, swinging one of those big plastic bats,” Denne said. “I’d like to say that, if it wasn’t for his grandparents, his relatives, his coaches and all his second sets of mothers and dads, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“A lot of people helped open doors for him, helped him stay out of trouble. People need diversity in their life and it was difficult without his mother’s guidance.”

Influences such as his high school coach, Kirk Nicholson, or strength coach Jeff Millet.

“Losing his grandparents took its toll, too. He’s dealt with it all,” Denne said. “Plus, being up, being down and the injuries.”

While Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero were in Phoenix for the 82nd all-star game, Snider flew from Cleveland to Seattle and his new 31/2-acre spread in Bothell, about eight miles from Bellevue, Wash., home to another pretty good Jays left-handed hitter, John Olerud.

And Monday was Barbecue Monday for about 30 to 40 former teammates and friends, as well as some parents at Snider’s place.

“There weren’t any speeches, we’ve done all that,” Denne said. “There were plenty of hugs and handshakes. He sees them all constantly when he’s home or when the Jays come to town.

“Travis makes sure that he hasn’t forgotten anyone. The barbecue was the first thing he wanted to have planned for the break when he got back. He hasn’t turned his back on anyone.”

When Snider, who remains close to his roots, decided to look for land to build a house, he and his father went on a two-month search. They decided on Bothell, three streets over from Mill Creek where he grew up.

“I used to coach a lot of these kids. They still never call me by my name ... only ‘Travis’ dad,’ ” says Travis’ dad. “Some of them are like my kids.”

Denne was a Little League president as well as a coach. He played up to the Babe Ruth level but “couldn’t cut the mustard.”

In 2008, Snider, was selected 14th overall in North America by scouting director Jon Lalonde and given a $1.7-million US signing bonus. He made his debut at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 29, 2008, hitting a ground-rule double off Carl Pavano.

“My father is the No. 1 reason I’m a big leaguer,” Snider told us that day. “He hit me fly balls, threw me batting practice and drove me to and from games and practices.”

Denne coached his son from the time he first enrolled in organized ball until he was 14.

“Eventually, we reached a point where two competitive people like my father and I could not be in the same dugout,” he said. “Something would happen and we’d do our father-son thing. Still, my father is always a guy I call and talk to, no matter what has happened in my game that night.”

Denne was there for his son’s debut in New York, just as he’d made trips to Lansing, class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire, Boston and Toronto. So were Snider’s pals and former teammates Cam Nobles, Chris Bowen and Joey Petosa, who all missed college class to see their pal at the big ball park in the Bronx.

Snider’s agent, Joe Urban, took the whole gang out for dinner.

Six days later, at 20 years of age, Snider homered off Minnesota Twins’ Kevin Slowey— the second youngest Jay (only Lloyd Moseby homered at a younger age) to do so.

There were plenty of Washington state memories around the table that night in New York.

Everyone was there, everyone but mom.

Patty Snider was driving on the Mukilteo Speedway outside Seattle on Sept. 9, 2007, four days before her 50th birthday, when she was involved in a fatal car accident.

There had been serious health problems before for Patty. Being attended to for a bout of pneumonia, she slipped into a coma and was unconscious for two weeks but bounced back ... until that day of driving.

What advice does Snider have for a teenager losing a parent?

“Remember the good times,” Snider said. “Be thankful of the time you have with your parents because you never know how much time you will have with them.”

Wish Snider was around when I was 19.


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