It's not often a sophomore's swing is so feared he rarely gets a good pitch to hit, if he gets pitched to at all. But such is likely to be the plight of Brandon Snyder, Westfield's slick-fielding, long-ball-hitting shortstop.
And for good reason. As a freshman, Snyder belted a Virginia AAA Northern Region-best eight home runs, had a .460 batting average and a .968 slugging percentage while also being named to the all-region first team -- an honor rarely bestowed upon ninth-graders.
If Snyder's hot start to this season is any indication of what is to come -- he homered in each of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs' two scrimmages and on the second pitch he faced in Tuesday's opener -- he could put up even better statistics this spring.
That is, if he gets pitched to.
"He's a man among boys," Chantilly Coach Chris Haddock said. "I told [Westfield Coach Chuck Welch], 'No offense, but we're going to walk him every time he comes to the plate.' Snyder beat us 1-0 on a homer last year."
Duplicating last year's success won't be Snyder's biggest challenge. It's keeping his patience at the plate while opposing pitchers throw away from him, or intentionally walk him. He was issued two walks in the Bulldogs' 7-3 victory over Lake Braddock, and took only two swings -- the first resulted in a home run over the right field wall and the other was a hard-hit single through the left side.
"I know to expect it," said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Snyder, whose father, Brian Snyder, pitched briefly in the major leagues, earning a World Series ring with the Oakland Athletics in 1989. "My whole thought process is to jump on their mistakes. If they leave one hanging up there, I can't let it go by. . . . It's hard going up there knowing that you're probably not going to get a chance to hit."
Snyder, who is rehabbing a hip injury he suffered two years ago and had surgery to repair a double hernia only weeks before the season, spent the past summer at his father's baseball school, Snyder Baseball, swinging, pitching, fielding and, of course, getting individualized instruction.
"I rode a lot of natural talent to get to where I got," the elder Snyder said. "The difference with Brandon is, he's got talent, but he works hard."
Along with outfielder-closer Louis Ullrich, pitcher Matt Campbell, catcher Jason Bour and first baseman Ryan Cunningham, Snyder leads an up-and-coming Bulldogs squad, which starts only one senior, and could contend for the Concorde District title as well as a region championship.
"Brandon's a great player, and I don't say that about many guys," Madison Coach Mark Gjormand said. "He's got a cool head, and obviously, he can swing it. And he's just as good defensively. He's got all the tools."