UNIVERSITY PARK If things had gone differently, Penn State baseball star outfielder Steve Snyder wouldn’t be playing baseball right now.
Snyder decided to play after flirting with the idea of not returning for his fifth year. So far, he has made the best of that decision.
A native of West Chester, and the team’s only redshirt senior, Snyder came to Penn State after a wildly successful high school career where he was named the county’s player of the year as a senior.
He had a similarly successful freshman campaign after arriving. He played in 46 games and finished second on the team with a .355 batting average and 12 stolen bases.
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“There were struggles, but it was awesome getting through that and being able to make an impact on a team where a lot of the guys are older than you,” Snyder said.
His freshman year was so successful that he was named a third-team All-Big Ten selection and a unanimous selection for the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team.
“By the end of the year, I felt like I really belonged,” he said.
But after sitting out his academic sophomore year because of Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Snyder struggled during his redshirt sophomore and junior seasons.
“I feel like I still contributed a good amount. Things didn’t really fall my way, but that’s how baseball is,” said Snyder on his two seasons where he hit .258 and .255, respectively.
It wasn’t all bad for Snyder, however. In 2012, the accounting major was selected to the Academic All-Big Ten Team, something he jokes that his parents loved.
So, coming into the 2014 season Snyder seriously debated whether or not he should stay.
“I think that coming back for a fifth year is something that a lot of people second-guess,” Snyder said. “It was a decision I was making based on whether I wanted to play another year of baseball or work towards getting my CPA and starting my career.”
“I just told him, ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is what we’re about, and I’d like for you to give us a chance,’” said coach Rob Cooper, who was brought in to replace Robbie Wine, who resigned last June.
Snyder noticed plenty of differences between Penn State’s old and new regimes, none more than how Cooper and company have motivated the team’s locker room.
“The chemistry with this team is the best I’ve had,” Snyder said. “Everyone’s locked in, bought into the philosophy that we’re trying to use here.”
The newfound team chemistry has led to a big season for Snyder, who leads the team in batting average (.337), hits (55) and on-base percentage (.418). He is one of two players who have appeared in every game.
“There’s a reason why he’s either batting lead-off or second for us all year,” Cooper said. “I believe in getting your best hitters up to the plate as many times as possible.”
While the team has hit a rough patch — the Nittany Lions have lost 12 straight games and currently have a 17-26 record – Snyder has performed at an All-Big Ten level.
“Steve’s the kind of guy I really wish I could coach for more than one year,”Cooper said.
Once the season ends, Snyder has plans. He has accepted a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, in Philadelphia, which he will start in October.
For now, Snyder is focused on trying to end his career in Happy Valley on a high note, remarking, “Our ultimate goal is to be champions.”
Snyder and the rest of the Nittany Lions will face a major challenge thisweekend, as the team hosts 18th-ranked Indiana at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The series begins on Friday.