Snodgrass receives honor 24 years in the making

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jun 11, 2018 at 5:37 PM

When Rickey Henderson set a major-league record for career stolen bases in 1991, there was an eight-minute delay in the game as he was honored and gave a speech.

Three years later, when Happy Valley High School’s Roger Snodgrass set the all-time Northeast Tennessee mark for steals in a season, there was no ceremony. In fact, Snodgrass wasn’t even recognized for setting a record until Monday — 24 years after the fact.

The Warriors’ speedster stole 43 bases in 46 attempts in his senior season in 1994. Also, Snodgrass set a state record that year with eight steals in one game, a mark that stood for nine years.

In one way, the Internet is responsible for Snodgrass’ efforts being unearthed. The Tennessee Baseball Report’s High School Record Book is available online, and Dobyns-Bennett’s Michael Farthing was the only Northeast Tennessee player on the list — which is headed by Chattanooga Central’s Eric Oliver, who stole 78 bases in 2000.

When Hampton’s Dru Owens caught Farthing with his 38th steal this season, it was believed the two players shared the record. However, Tennessee High’s Gavin Cross finished this season with 40 steals to claim his spot at the top of the list.

However, former Happy Valley head coach Bernie Young and Snodgrass happened to be talking recently, and recalled Snodgrass’ memorable year. The numbers had not been reported to the Tennessee Baseball Report, but Young sent the information to the organization last week.

Now 42 years old and a pharmaceutical representative, Snodgrass said he distinctly recalls two of the times he was nailed on the base paths: once each by Sullivan East’s Thomas Dillard and Unicoi County’s Brad Tapp.

“Brad got me in the district tournament up in Mountain City,” said Snodgrass. “I’ll never forget (Unicoi third baseman) Jason Chandler putting the glove on me and tagging me out.”

The other time he was caught was by a left-handed catcher from New York in a North Carolina tournament.

Snodgrass said he never experienced a win against Unicoi County in his career, but the Blue Devils inspired him to become a base-stealing threat.

“I remember how disruptive it was when Unicoi would steal bases on us,” said Snodgrass. “We would be in tight games with them, and they would steal and disrupt the mindset of our team.”

Snodgrass got the green light from Young prior to his senior season.

“It wasn’t like I set a goal to steal bases,” said Snodgrass. “It was like Forrest Gump. I was just running.”

Young said he had no problem letting Snodgrass have freedom when running the bases.

“He was a lot like (Science Hill standout) Nick Crowe,” said Young. “When he was on first base, two pitches later he was on third.”

Young said Snodgrass had some good wheels, but many of his thefts came from something else.

“Roger is one of the most intelligent young men I’ve been around,” said Young. “He’s a lot smarter than me. He could run a little, but it wasn’t blazing speed. He studied pitchers and he studied the game. In the dugout he was all about checking the pitcher and timing him up, looking for little tell-tale signs. He used every ounce of talent he had in him.”

Snodgrass batted .371 that season and reached base at an impressive .547 clip.

The big game came against South Greene on April Fool’s Day. Snodgrass stole home twice in that contest.

“It was a fairly close game,” said Snodgrass. “It wasn’t like we absolutely crushed them. You know Coach Young would never rub dirt in someone’s face.”

Snodgrass’ mark was the best in state history until Greenback’s Matt McKee stole nine in a game in 2003. Snodgrass is tied for second with Oneida’s Ben Crabtree, who had eight in 2005.

Snodgrass had close to 90 steals for his career, which would also rank No. 1 in Northeast Tennessee history. He said the record-setting season came as a product of hard work.

“In the preseason, Coach Young ran us as much or more than any cross country team,” said Snodgrass. “We were in phenomenal shape.”

Snodgrass said the years have gone by quickly.

“It’s hard to believe it has been almost 25 years,” he said. “Playing ball is a special memory for all of us who played. It’s nice to know things do come back around and you can be recognized for something.”

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