Snider credits hitting coach for helping him Las Vegas
Travis Snider believes he could have fought through his batting slump earlier this year, but the 23-year-old outfielder also thinks the Toronto Blue Jays made the right call when they demoted him.
Dispatched to the Las Vegas 51s, Snider realized it was no time to be selfish.
"Instead I really focused from Day 1 when I was in Las Vegas to work as hard as I could to fix my hitting situation and make it hard for management not to bring me back," he said in an interview in Sin City just prior to his recall.
Back in the big leagues, Snider hit a career-best three doubles in his return Monday in Toronto's 9-7 victory over Boston.
Like any high draft pick that has been sent down, Snider admitted he was disappointed and humbled by his April 29 demotion. Instead of becoming bitter, the 14th pick in the 2006 draft looked to fix a swing that went from 14 homers in 82 games with Toronto last year to just one home run and a .184 average in the first 25 games of this season.
Snider credits a lot of his improvement to Las Vegas 51s hitting coach Chad Mottola, who was drafted one spot higher than Derek Jeter in 1992 but spent most of his playing career in the minors.
"Chad is very helpful, especially in getting you to understand the mentally frustrating part of the game," Snider said. "Being around somebody as positive as Chad is, and knowing how he is able to relate to young guys because he's been in their exact same position is invaluable."
Mottola — who played in more than 1,800 minor league games during a 16-year career — shrugged off the compliments and credited Snider for the extra sweat and swings he put in during his two-month stay in Vegas. But he does agree with Snider that his years of playing experiences prepared him for any situation.
"I almost enjoy this more than playing at the end because you see the guys faces light up when they perform something that you've talked them through," said Mottola, who worked extensively with J.P. Arencibia last year when the Toronto catcher earned Pacific Coast League's Player of the Year honours.
"With Travis' swing, it's one of those things that didn't happen over night. Travis knows that more than anybody. But when you have 50 people telling you 500 different answers and you know you're struggling so you're willing to listen to them all, it's hard to know what to believe.
"I think me having gone through similar slumps and being able talk to him about those situations and telling him what advice to respectively listen to and what to throw away probably helps out just as much as actually hitting in the cage."
Snider agreed and said that he was just starting to get comfortable with his new swing — which features a more open stance compared to the square stature that proved to be a bit top heavy earlier in the year — when he suffered a concussion on June 19, forcing him to miss two weeks.
"I really am starting to get a feel for what my swing is supposed to be and it's starting to come around where I need it to be. I really felt it was just a matter of time before things clicked and it took back off," he said.
While Snider is the first to admit he's not 100 per cent sure why his power numbers have disappeared this season (he has just three home runs in nearly 300 at bats between triple-A and Toronto this year, compared to the 25 he hit in a little more than 600 at-bats during his first three years in the majors), he thinks his pop, like his swing, will be back soon.
"If you told me I would have just three home runs in late June, I wouldn't have believed it," said Snider, who had a .333 average in 49 games with the 51s, with 29 RBI, an on-base-percentage of .403 and seven stolen bases.
"But I know I've still got power and I've been incorporating it into my new approach as well and feel like it's just a matter of time."
Timing can mean everything, so while Snider insists that he hopes he doesn't have to take a similar triple-A route in the future, in this instance it proved to be the best option.
"Any time you get sent down, it's frustrating — whether you feel you should've or not. I understand why it happened and I took a positive attitude towards the situation," Snider said. "Now I need to be consistent, make my minor adjustments with my swing when needed and stay away from some of the bad habits I picked up earlier in the year.
"I'm starting to realize each time I've been sent [to Las Vegas] that I have to mature as a player and be consistent. Early on in my career I never envisioned that I would be in these kind of situations, but now I know that consistency is the key to staying up there."