Despite COVID, Eldon’s Snelling finds future in baseball with Hannibal-LaGrange
Things can seem fairly grim in the middle of a pandemic.
Eldon senior Fisher Snelling, like any athlete across the country, was preparing for his junior season of baseball with the Mustangs when COVID-19 reached the Lake area and took it away. No practices, no games and his coach at Eldon, Chad Hinds, said he remembered the junior asking whether he would be able to have a future in baseball.
Well, Snelling got his official answer on Wednesday after signing his letter of intent to play for Hannibal La-Grange University.
“It means the world. Losing a season like that is pretty terrible and heartbreaking, but knowing I get to keep playing and keep doing my dream is amazing,” the senior said of the opportunity.
For Snelling, that dream began to develop at the age of 3 playing catch with his father in the backyard. He eventually started playing travel ball and it was the little things over time that made the difference.
“After school practices, weightlifting before school and anything I could do to get ready, I did it,” the senior said.
Hinds has enjoyed the journey as well, watching the kind of player Snelling has become since his freshman year.
“He pushed himself to be better. If you look at his freshman picture he comes in almost like a twig and now he is a grown man,” the coach said of the senior who has been a pitcher the program relied upon before the pandemic took away last season. “He went in the weight room and got bigger and stronger and he has built his arm up. He is basically a workhorse for us. His sophomore year he came through and dominated on the mound for us. It paid off for him.”
The coach said he is looking forward to having him on the diamond for one final season as the top pitcher on the team this spring and as someone who can lead the program as one of two seniors on the team. Overall, he is expecting great things because he knows the senior is one who is willing to go the extra mile to improve his game.
“When the pressure is on, he is the guy you want and he’ll volunteer. Those are the type of guys you want,” the coach said. “He has been a pleasure to have.”
The NAIA school in Hannibal certainly took notice and Trojans head coach Ben Strother could see some of the things that reminded him why they went after Snelling in recruitment when he attended Wednesday’s signing ceremony.
“The most exciting thing I get to see is when a young man is here and the whole community comes to support him because he is a good kid,” Strother said. “That is what you have here with Fisher and that is exciting for me to see because that is what it is all about- finding guys that have the right character and heart for the game. Put them all together and you get something special.”
Of course, the baseball attributes Snelling provides is something Strother is looking forward to having, too.
“Fisher is a big body and has a ton of potential. Really liked the things he has on the mound and we are just looking to be able to add to his tools,” Strother noted. “He could be a very good NAIA either at this level and his bat and everything else would be a plus.”
Recruiting in the middle of the pandemic certainly comes with its own set of challenges and especially when there are no games taking place. Strother liked what he saw when Snelling came up for a visit and tryout and at the same time, the senior was liking a lot of things he saw at Hannibal-LaGrange where he intends to major in education with a minor in history and eventually become a high school teacher.
“It just blew me away. The campus was great, I love that it is a great Christian school and it is small enough where I could know my teachers,” Snelling stated. “That was a big thing for me and the coaching staff was amazing. I was able to joke around with them immediately and we just hit it off great.”
With a new chapter on the horizon after one final season with the Mustangs, Snelling will not soon forget all the things he has learned along the way, either. They are lessons that could pay dividends in his future.
“I’ve learned so many lessons from Coach Hinds and Coach (Jacob) Koelling. Coach Koelling has taught me just about everything I could possibly think of- pitching, mindset, the entire thing,” he said of the Eldon baseball assistant. “They both have a huge impact on how I play and how I am as a person and react to situations. My time as a Mustang has been so eventful and great for me.”
For now, Snelling is looking forward to getting back to work at McMillen Field where the Mustangs play. For him, work is everything and can define any pursuits or interests in life.
“Just work hard, that is everything you can do,” he pointed out. “Your ability will take you so far, but outside of that you just have t keep working and you’ll get there eventually. Just have to keep going.”
Perhaps that is no more evident than finding a future when a pandemic can disrupt so much of the present.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-346-2132