Bob Snyder did not feel well when he helped coach a team at the WWBA World Championship in Florida this October. He had trouble getting around and friends wondered if it might be the bottom of the ninth for the guy they lovingly call “Coach.”
Don’t count him out yet.
Snyder is not completely healthy yet, but he has good news to share with the baseball community and his many admirers.
“I’m doing a lot better,” he told Perfect Game this week. “I’ve made great progress in the last month.”
Snyder, 64, had a considerable amount of fluids drained from his stomach and lungs after he returned to his home in southern Indiana from Florida. It may have saved his life.
“I was going to have congestive heart failure if I wasn’t very careful,” he said. “The water pushes us against everything and overworks your heart.”
Snyder has been coaching baseball since 1967. He’s made it to the American Legion World Series three times, took Wabash Valley Community College to the junior college World Series and has been helping with the Indiana Yankees travel team since its inception in 1997.
His medical problems began with a serious car accident in 1979. He received a blood transfusion, but that led to a case of hepatitis that went undetected for nearly 14 years.
“I lived from 1979 until about 1992 or ’93 without even knowing I had it,” he said.
Snyder never stopped coaching, however. He began taking experimental drugs to fight the hepatitis, but those drugs clashed with other drugs he was taking for arthritis and created side effects. He’s been in and out of medical centers for treatment.
“It’s been a rough go, but it’s amazing to talk to him. He doesn’t act like it,” said Buddy Swift, the general manager of the Indiana Yankees and a dear friend.
Swift played for Coach Snyder at Wabash Valley. When Swift formed the Indiana Yankees, he asked Snyder to help.
“I couldn’t imagine a fall without him,” Swift remarked.
For his part, Snyder has treasured his work with the Yankees.
“I’d say we’ve helped 200 to 250 kids go to college,” he said. “That makes me feel good.”
Snyder said eight former Yankees were selected in the major league draft last June, adding to their count of professional players.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some great players,” he said. “It never hurts to have a little talent, as you know.”
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler played American Legion baseball for Snyder in southern Indiana, and Snyder thought the strong-armed athlete should have stuck with baseball instead of focusing on football.
“I thought Jay made the wrong decision,” he said, laughing. “When I see Jay, we don’t talk about football. We talk about the baseball days.”
Snyder can also talk about basketball. When he was living in Terre Haute, Ind., he kept the scorebook for the Indiana State men’s basketball team during the 1978-79 campaign. That was the year Larry Bird led the Sycamores to the NCAA championship game against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.
Snyder traveled with the Sycamores that season and formed a lasting friendship with Bird. “That was quite a thrill,” he said. “I didn’t miss a game that year.”
He sat at the scorer’s table for the 1979 championship game, keeping the scorebook for Indiana State in one of the most famous college basketball games ever played.
“I’ve had a lot of thrills in baseball, but that was a thrill, too,” he said.
Snyder can tell stories. He remembers the year Wabash Valley placed third at the junior college national tournament, going as far as they could.
“We got beat by San Jac, Texas, which had a minor league pitching staff that year,” he said. “We could have played them 100 times and maybe, if we were fortunate, we might beat them once.”
He took his American Legion team to the Legion World Series in Oregon in 1974, where his club beat a team from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that featured Mike Boddicker, a talented young pitcher. Snyder’s team didn’t have to face Boddicker, but Snyder saw him pitch and predicted a long, successful major league career for the right-hander. And he was right.
He coached Josh Garrett, who was selected in the first round of the 1996 draft by the Boston Red Sox. Three of his former players reached the big leagues, and there could be more to come.
Snyder got started in baseball at an early age.
“Dad helped with the semi-pro team, got the ground ready, the concession stand and did just about everything,” he said. “I started going when I was probably 4 or 5. Mother always loved baseball, and our whole family grew up in baseball, I guess you would say.”
He grew up with the game and never left it.
“I always wanted to coach,” he said. “My playing ability was a little slow, lacked a little arm, lacked a little of this, lacked a little of that, but I loved the game,” he said.
His next season is on the horizon, now that his health has improved.
“The kids love him. People love him,” Swift said. “He’s good for the game.”