Travis Snider tries so goddamned hard that sometimes, it hurts just to watch him.
Last night, mired in a two week stretch of (vaguely productive) futility, Snider assumed his rightful place in the two-hole of the lineup. What followed, as the game progressed, was a devolution of Snider's mood from determination to frustration to desperation, as he worked his way through an ugly blur of strikeouts, bats snapped over his knee, and absurdly desperate head-first dives into first base.
Snider was going to will his way out of his slump, or he was going to kill himself trying.
It's always been a part of the Snider mythology that he's been a passionate and sensitive guy who struggles to keep his emotions in check. Over the past few years, he's been open to the beat reporters on how he's worked to keep them in check and keep himself balance. But towards the end of last night's game, we began worrying about what he might do if faced with time on the bench or worse, a trip to join Jesse Litsch in Vegas to right himself and tee off on bad breaking pitches and straight fastballs. (As if that would be any help at this point.)
When Snider stepped to the plate in the 10th, it wasn't just the game on the line. We worried that a poor at bat might just result a monumental breakdown. Throwing himself to the ground and pounding dirt until it gave way to concrete.
And then, Snider reached down in the zone with his third bat of the evening, with a level and balanced swing, something that's been in short supply lately. And there it went, an arcing liner, solidly up the gap between the right and centre fielders, to the wall scoring the walkoff winning run. (And if you watch the replay, you can see that fortune smiled on Snider and the Jays, as that ball was inches away from bouncing over for a ground rule double.)
We're certain that the emotion laid bare on the field afterwards by Snider and his teammates on the field was echoed across the country. When someone so clearly wants to succeed as badly as Snider does, you can't help but invest from your own emotional reserves in their success.
That might be why he's our favourite player right now. Because with every at bat, we ache like he aches.
(Photo? Filled with emotion. Reuters, via Daylife.)