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Snyder On Trial in Majors, Maybe Court

For Cory Snyder, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

The phrase belongs to 19th Century English author Charles Dickens, but the description certainly fits Snyder, who seems to be living A Tale of Two Seasons.

In the space of a few weeks, Snyder, a 23-year-old minor-league third baseman for the Maine Guides of the Triple-A International League, has been hauled into court on two counts of third-degree assault for hitting two fans in the stands with a thrown bat, and called up to the Cleveland Indians and given a spot on a major-league roster.

A dream and a nightmare running concurrently. On the very day Snyder packed up and headed for Cleveland, an attorney was representing him in the criminal branch of a Rochester city court where a hearing date of July 7 was set for the assault case.

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It is particularly ironic that Snyder, a Mormon who doesn’t smoke or drink, should be involved in a criminal case.

The incident occurred several weeks ago. Snyder, playing in Rochester against the Red Wings, hit a pop fly to center. He flung his bat in the direction of the dugout. It didn’t stop there, however, continuing instead on a collision course into the seats where it hit a 61-year-old woman, cutting her lip, and the woman’s granddaughter, breaking her nose.

Snyder blamed the pine tar on the bat, saying it stuck to his hand, causing him to inadvertently throw the bat away.

That was just the beginning of Snyder’s miserable afternoon.

The next time he came to bat, Snyder was hit by Red Wing pitcher Bill Swaggerty, who later admitted he was retaliating for the fans. A bench-clearing fight ensued. Snyder stood quietly by the home plate umpire and watched. When all the flailing bodies had been separated, Snyder and Swaggerty were ejected.

Enter the long arm of the law.

A law enforcement official wanted to intercept Snyder before he could get away.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Jim Napier, Snyder’s Maine manager, told the officer. “You can come in our clubhouse and do what you have to do.”

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If Snyder doesn’t cooperate, Napier was told, he’ll be taken away in handcuffs.

For throwing his bat ? Maybe jail was too good for the man. Forget the trial. Let’s just lynch him.

It got worse. The headline in a local paper read “Mayhem At The Ballpark.” A cartoon illustration showed the sequence of events much as you’d recreate a murder scene.

“I was kind of embarrassed by it,” says Bob Matthews, a columnist for the Rochester Times-Union, not the paper which ran the sensationalistic headline. “I was embarrassed for the town. I understand why it was a story, but it was handled like a crime. It was an accident. To say it was malicious--nothing could be further from the truth.

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“That’s all anybody was talking about around here for two days.”

Snyder, who has pleaded innocent to all charges, is refraining from comment while the case winds its way through the courts. But his manager has plenty to say.

“In 28 years of baseball, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Napier says. “It was handled like a witch hunt. I just don’t understand it. The way it was made to look, you’d think he picked the two ladies out and threw the bat at them deliberately. He’s an outstanding young man. He has never done anything to anybody. He wouldn’t know how to hurt anybody if he wanted to.”

Snyder’s problems cannot be blamed on frustration. When he was called up to replace injured Cleveland infielder Pat Tabler, Snyder was hitting a team-leading .302 for Maine with nine home runs and 32 RBI in 49 games.

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That continues a pattern of excellence begun at Canyon High School, and continued at BYU where Snyder smashed hitting records as well as baseballs. In 1984, he played for the U.S. Olympic baseball team and was the top pick of the Indians in the June draft.

Snyder finished last year, his first in pro ball, with a .281 average, 28 homers and 94 RBI at Waterbury, a Double-A club in the Eastern League. He was named league MVP.

When he returned to the Rochester ballpark the day after the incident, he was booed mercilessly.

The fans had already reached a verdict--guilty.

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Before the series was over, however, Snyder slugged a game-winning home run. The reaction? Cheers from the crowd. The other team’s crowd.

Perhaps they were just thankful his bat had connected with something other than one of their skulls.


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