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High School | General | 4/6/2021

Diamond dreams now drive Snelling

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Robby Snelling (McQueen HS baseball)

This has been one crazy spring for Nevada elite two-sport standout Robby Snelling. It’s also one that promises to lead into an even crazier summer as the talented top national baseball and football prospect positions himself for whatever the future might bring.

And the beauty of it is, the junior at McQueen High School in Reno wouldn’t have it any other way. The son of Jim and Lacy Snelling, both educators and graduates of the University of Nevada where Jim played D-I football, is blessed with an inherent competitive drive that lends itself to excellence both on the field of play and in the classroom.

“He’s very mature,” his dad, Jim Snelling, told PG during a recent telephone conversation. “He’s a single child – he’s been around a lot of adults – and he handles that very well; he’s very humble about it. You would think that a kid that gets as much attention as he’s getting might be a little over-confident or a little bit arrogant about it but he’s not that way at all.”

Jim Snelling knows the inner-workings of his son better than anyone, perhaps, because he is also Robby Snelling’s football coach at McQueen HS.

Coach Snelling came from a very athletic background with both of his parents involved in coaching football, baseball, basketball and volleyball. Jim grew up in a small town in northern California, was recruited to play football at the University of Nevada in Reno and ultimately decided to make northern Nevada his home.

It is in this setting that the younger Snelling has thrived. Robby is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound, hard-throwing left-hander (mid-90s fastball) and outfielder on the baseball field who Perfect Game ranks as the No. 24 overall prospect and No. 5 left-hander nationally; that’s with limited looks from PG scouts. He is also ranked as a 4-star outside linebacker prospect on the football field who, according to his dad, is entertaining 21 offers from D-I schools.

Snelling had originally committed to Stanford after his freshman year but in what he called a “family decision” decommitted in February. That decision re-opened the recruiting floodgates and Snelling is now looking for the perfect fit where he can pursue both baseball and football at the highest level possible.

“I want to do both sports in college but baseball is definitely what I want to do as a job,” Snelling told PG without hesitation during a separate telephone conversation last week. “That’s my biggest thing right now.”

As noted above, Robby Snelling’s Perfect Game experiences have been limited, but when given the opportunity to perform he’s done so at a very high level.

He’s been rostered at five PG WWBA tournaments since 2018, all with NorCal Baseball, and has earned all-tournament recognition at three of them; he was the MVP at the 2019 PG Freshman West MLK Championship in Glendale, Ariz., with the champion NorCal Baseball 2022 Blue. His top fastball was gunned at 84 mph at that event but it was up to 93 a year later at the 2020 PG Fall Underclass National Championship Protected by G-Form, also in Arizona.

“When Robby started into little league and started to a little bit of travel baseball with local teams, he was having a lot of success both pitching and hitting,” Jim Snelling said. “We basically wanted to see how good Robby was because up here he’d pitch a six-inning game and he’d strike out somewhere between 15 and 17 kids.”

As Robby continued to improve at the local level, Jim used some of his contacts and connections to get in touch with Rob Bruno, the founder and owner/operator of NorCal Baseball, based in Manteca, Calif.; an immediate bond was formed.

According to Jim, the Snellings arranged for Robby to work out with Bruno’s junior high team when Robby was a seventh-grader. No one knew what would come out of the workout going in, but once completed, Bruno welcomed the younger Snelling into his prestigious program. The 2021 season will be Robby’s fifth summer playing with NorCal.

“I love Rob; he’s definitely the type of coach that I respond really well to,” Snelling said of Bruno. “His coaching style, it’s just – there’s nobody up here in Reno that coaches like that. It’s really nice getting away and playing in the big tournaments that he puts us in and then being around the atmosphere of the players that he surrounds us with.”

Conflicts have arisen along the way because of Snelling’s two-sport status. There have been times when the Snellings had to decide between baseball and football during the summer months and often there was no simple solution.

Pre-pandemic, Coach Snelling would run a five-week summer program that involves weight lifting and workouts and Robby was required to be in attendance.

“With him being one of our better athletes on our football team and me being the head coach, he has to be at those things,” Jim said. “So the fact that he hasn’t been at many Perfect Game events, it’s mostly due to the fact that he’s balancing the baseball and the football.”

This is a very busy time on the calendar for this uber-talented 17-year-old, all because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Nevada high school association opted to forgo a fall football season in 2020 but is playing a six-game spring season right now.

So, there’s a full day of school Monday through Friday and football practices and games during the week, but just to make sure he’s not falling behind, Snelling goes often to a cage and hits from 7:30-9:30 – after completing any homework assignments, of course.

He’s also been throwing one bullpen a week, because if McQueen makes the football playoffs, which is looking likely, Snelling will play his first high school baseball game less than a week after the conclusion of the football season.

“I have six baseball players that are on our football team of which three of those guys are pitchers and one’s a catcher,” Coach Snelling said. “I’ve set up a deal with the baseball coach to where they can throw a bullpen once a week just so their arms are in shape and ready for the season.”

It was and continues to be a delicate balancing act for Robby Snelling during the pandemic rescheduling. The state high school athletics association originally announced there would be no football at all during the 2020-21 school year, so Snelling started working on getting himself in baseball shape.

He played with the NorCal Baseball Blue at the PG Underclass Fall National Championship in September and he felt like he was getting into mid-season baseball form just through playing with NorCal and his stringent individual workout program.

And then he had to hit the brakes. An announcement came forth that there would be a spring football season after all, which meant an entirely different regimen from the one Snelling was involved with.

“I stopped all of the throwing and got back into the gym and started doing some football workouts with my team and made that transition into football season,”  he said.

Jim Snelling told PG that as a coach he’s been fortunate enough to have under his direction numerous players who went on to D-I football careers and even a handful who played in the NFL. The fact that Robby had grown up around those young, elite athletes was very beneficial, Jim believes, because he’s been able to witness up close and personal what is required to succeed at the highest level.

“He’s a pretty celebral kid, pretty smart, being that he’s been around athletics so much,” Coach Snelling said. “I think if he were just doing baseball he would definitely be a two-way guy. But I think he also looks at it and says, you know what, if I’m not going to be there in the fall because of my commitments to football, trying to hit that kind of pitching at the collegiate level would be difficult.”

Being a two-way player in baseball is one thing and being a two-sport athlete is something else all-together. That said, Snelling has made the dual commitment work very well while excelling at positions that some may view as being incompatible.

“Being a linebacker and also being a pitcher is a really weird combination,” Robby said. “But I always get told that (people) are impressed with how I fly around the field and hit people...and that mental approach that I’m going to play as hard as I can and do what I can to get the job done, I can take that out on the (baseball field)...

“I think I’ve done a really good job being able to hone that in and really focus it in on every batter that I face; that’s been really important for sure.”

The summer of 2021 is going to be one with a lazar focus on the baseball diamond because, Jim said, they know how important the summer before a prospect’s senior year can be. Now that Robby has reopened his college recruitment, that importance has been magnified. Simply put, the Snellings won’t be spending many weekends at home in the coming months.

“I have to work the college visits around my baseball schedule,” Snelling said. “...It’s going to be crazy but the dreams are starting to become a reality with that type of thing, so I think I’ve been ready for it.”

Robby Snelling already has one important engagement circled on his calendar and that’s the 2021 PG National Showcase, which will be held July 14-18 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The event is an opportunity unlike any other in terms of exposure in front of the MLB scouting community for rising seniors, and it’s one that can sometimes lead to an invitation to the prestigious PG All-American Classic in August.

Snelling told PG that the most prevalent motto surrounding McQueen HS athletics and one that his dad espouses is the familiar “Iron Sharpens Iron”. By adhering to that motto it only makes sense that a prospect becomes stronger and more durable by wanting to get out there and compete with and against others who have already sharpened their iron. What better way to elevate your level of play?

“As a little kid in middle school, watching the videos and the highlights of those showcases and that type of thing, that was something that I always wanted to do and get a chance to do,” Snelling said. “It was super cool when I got that invitation and I’m super excited for that.”

There’s no question that Jim Snelling has had a tremendous impact on his son growing up in a way that only a father who happens to also be a coach can have. Past accomplishments are a constant reminder of what can be achieved if you’re willing to put the work in and dedicate yourself to the cause.

But it’s not all work and no play either; Lacy Snelling sees to that.

“When we get home it’s way more mellow than it is when I’m hanging out with my dad when we’re at the gym or on the football field,” Robby said of the time he gets to spend with his mom. “It’s kind of nice to come back to the house and be able to detox from all the adrenaline and stuff that was going on when I was practicing or lifting.”

So, yes, a busy and important summer awaits the Snelling family, but that will come only after the completion of the spring football and baseball seasons at McQueen High. Robby Snelling has accomplished much so far during his teen years and will continue to grow as he enters adulthood. It should be a lot of fun to watch.

“As a parent I would tell you that the most important thing is that he’s a great kid,” Jim said. “He’s respected by his peers and by the adults in the community and the teachers that he works with; I’m very, very proud of him. He does great academically...and honestly, he handles most of the recruiting on his own...

“Right now, these are our vacations; we’re not going to Hawaii,” he added with a laugh. “These are things that we do as a family. Obviously, we’re very proud of him for his accomplishments both athletically and academically but we’re really proud of him for the young man that he is.”

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