In the spring of 2005, the Washington Nationals were charging, surprising the baseball world with a magical start to their first season in D.C. Brandon Snyder was in uniform at RFK Stadium one day that spring, a W on his hat. But that W was gold and the hat was black, the colors of Westfield High School in Chantilly. Snyder was there for the annual All-Met photo shoot, as the Post’s high school player of the year after he hit .547 with 29 RBI during his senior season. The nearby Orioles took him in the first round of the draft that June.
Now, Snyder is back with the newer of his hometown teams, one of those nonroster invitees who seems like a long shot for the Opening Day roster, but who is a sentimental favorite nonetheless. Asked a few days ago who impressed him so far this spring, Baker mentioned Snyder, who is hitting .417 through eight spring games. More than a decade after that All-Mets shoot, Snyder is hoping to be in uniform, at the home of the Nationals, again this spring.
Snyder broke into the majors with the Orioles, but never quite stuck. He bounced to the Rangers, then the Red Sox, shuttling between the big leagues and minors. By 2015, Snyder found himself in the Independent League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the same team with which former National Steve Lombardozzi tried to resurrect his career last year.
Snyder always told his agent that he would love a chance with the Nationals, but talks in previous years never led to a deal. This offseason, they did, and Snyder arrived in camp as a super-utility man looking for nothing more than a genuine look.
“All I ask is for the opportunity to prove myself. I love managers like Dusty who are a little more old school, looking for baseball players. That’s who I am,” Snyder said. “I’m not a guy who is going to be a star out of the gate, but I am going to try to help the team any way I can. I think guys like him still appreciate that.”
The righty was tough to find in the early days of spring training. One day he took ground balls at third base. The next, Snyder was fielding fly balls in the outfield. Some days he would trudge in with a catcher’s bag and toss it in the pile with the rest of the catchers’ gear. He will have at least 10 gloves in his locker by the time his gear comes in, a couple for the infield, a few for the outfield and backup gloves for all of them.
“I told them from the get-go, I’ll do anything,” Snyder said. ” I was drafted as a catcher, so it’s something I’ve kept up with over the years.”
That versatility will be attractive to the Nationals, who might not have room despite Snyder’s flexibility. Stephen Drew, Chris Heisey, Jose Lobaton and Adam Lind all seem likely to secure bench spots. Snyder seems unlikely to earn the fifth spot, particularly with faster and younger homegrown options Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin also in the mix for the role.
But Snyder has considered the possibility. He just smiled when asked what it might mean to come home as a National on Opening Day. His father owns a baseball academy in Manassas, and Snyder coaches clinics and teaches high school kids who come through to work. He stays in contact with his coaches from Westfield, though they are not working there anymore. In his day, Snyder was the prized hometown kid, the treasured local prospect of the Orioles’ draft class. Now, he has a chance to be that hometown kid to root for once again.
“I mess with all my buddies back home because they were all Orioles fans but now, they’re all Nats fans. They would show up to Orioles games wearing Nats gear. I would be like ‘guys!’,” Snyder said. “Now, the Nationals fan base in Northern Virginia is very strong. It would be incredible to be a part of that.”