A World Series is not an event that needs additional hyping, but a father versus son dynamic is a welcome subplot nonetheless.
The best-of-seven Fall Classic series to crown this year’s Major League Baseball champion begins on Tuesday night, bringing Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker face-to-face with his son, Houston Astros hitting coach Troy Snitker.
Looking for his first ever World Series title in the Braves’ first World Series appearance since 1999, Snitker will be hoping his son will not hold the key to Astros manager Dusty Baker repeating the team’s 2017 triumph.
Fired to a 95-67 AL West-winning season record by diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve, the Astros arrive with a superior record to the Braves’ underwhelming 88-73 NL East record, and the Braves coach is not expecting his son to give him any tips on getting Altuve out.
‘He’s going to want to kick my a**!’
“I don’t know if he knows!” Snitker laughed at the workout day press conference.
“We talk as much as we can. We both have unbelievably busy schedules this time of year, and I’ll see him this evening when we’re done because I told him, if we don’t this evening, we may not because these are long days and long games. So there may not be a lot of time.
“Hopefully, he’s with his mother right now, I think spending some time with her while I’m out here. But it’s good. We just talk generalities. I’m not going to pick his brain about that or do that to him or anything.
“Quite honestly, tomorrow at 7:09 or whatever, he’s going to want to kick my a**!” he added.
Snitker confirmed the feeling was mutual but found time to give a glowing appraisal of his son.
“Maybe, I did something right, the way he turned out. He’s a heck of a young man and he has a great work ethic,” the 66-year-old said.
“I love the fact that he’s meshed because I raised him in a dugout, on a bus, on the field a long, long time ago before analytics were ever invented.
“I think he’s a good blend of the old-school way of doing things and he’s very open and gets all the new information that’s out there. I think it’s a good mix.”
LIke father, like son
Son Troy gave an equally heartwarming evaluation of his father’s role in his life, revealing that his own hard-working attitude is very much a product of his parent.
“His work ethic, I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from him,” the 32-year-old said
“He’s so consistent. He’s the same guy every day when you’re in the clubhouse with him, that’s what I got to be around for so many years.
“Just to see it in action – how he treats people. He has so many positive qualities about him, but he’s always the same guy no matter whether they’re winning or losing, he takes the same mindset to the field every day.
“He’s been through so much in his career. There were plenty of times where he could have easily decided to go do something else, but he stuck with it.”
Yet just like his father, Snitker is putting victory firmly ahead of family ties.
“I feel like being with these guys every day, we’ve earned the chance to be here,” Snitker said.
“We’re good enough to do it. So I expect us to win four games. I know this team can do it.
“He probably feels the same way. So I don’t think I’m going to be happy unless we get those four games.”
Beyond the father versus son narrative, there is another considerably less wholesome subplot to this World Series: last year’s Astros cheating scandal.
Major League Baseball found that the team had illegally created a system that decoded and communicated the opposing teams’ pitching signs during their 2017 championship season, leading Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane to fire the team’s manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.
The pair were suspended without pay for one season, and the Astros were subsequently forced to forfeit their regular first- and second-round selections in 2020 and 2021 drafts, as well as pay a $5 million fine.
Veteran manager Baker, 72, took charge in the wake of the scandal and was asked during his press conference whether the desire to prove they could win “clean” would give his players an extra drive to win.
“I don’t think that’s their main source of motivation,” Baker replied.
“That’s what I think people are trying to make it … but that doesn’t motivate you nearly as much as just driving to win and driving for excellence. You can only be driven by ‘I’ll show you’ or by negative motivation so far.
“I think this team is way past that because they know they can play. ‘Me against the world’ … how long can you have that mantra? I think that’s been gone a while.
“We are here where we wanted to be, and so we just play the game. You play the game for the love of the game and the love of winning.”
‘Too cool to be a granddad’
Now into his 24th season as a major league manager – following up on a 19-year playing career – Baker has taken all five teams he has managed to the playoffs, but a first championship ring still eludes him.
Reflecting on his progression as a manager, Baker discussed the differences between his coaching style two decades ago compared to now.
“It’s different,” Baker admitted. “As a player, I never went up in front of the plane. I never went up in front of the bus. We were in the back cutting it up.”
“Then when I first started coaching, I was staying in the back, talking more to the players on the plane. But things change over the course of time where I let them have their space – I try not to intrude.
“Plus with Covid being around, we weren’t allowed to go to the back of the plane. We weren’t allowed to leave your seats. So it set a total different dynamic. Guys weren’t allowed to play cards anymore. The whole thing changed.
“When I first came in, I was more like an uncle, and then I became more like a dad. So I’m kind of in between a dad and maybe even a granddad, but I’m probably a little bit too cool to be a granddad right now!”
Wherever you look, family ties run deep in this year’s World Series.