The game was over and the dog pile had already begun near the pitcher’s mound at Jim Patterson Stadium. But there was another moment, off camera, that was just as memorable. And on Father’s Day, seems just as significant.
Louisville baseball assistant coach Eric Snider, amid the chaos, went looking for his son, Cardinals’ left fielder Jake Snider, only to see that his son was looking through the celebration for him.
For once, and perhaps the first time, the two will be together on Father’s Day when Louisville faces Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon (2 p.m, ESPN) in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. For a baseball family, it doesn’t get much better than that.
But their Father’s Day moment, for all intents and purposes, may have happened back in Louisville after the Cardinals’ College World Series clinching victory over East Carolina last Saturday.
“They dog piled and all that, and I looked for Jake, and he was seeking me out,” Eric Snider said. “So we got to hug on the field. That was special for me. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Eric Snider has been coaching baseball since 1990, eight years before his son, Jake, was born. He has been an assistant and the recruiting coordinator for Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell the past five seasons, and spent the prior 14 years at Illinois.
For Jake’s entire life, his father has been on the road, coaching or recruiting.
“Growing up, I didn’t always get to see him every day,” Jake said. “But I do now.”
From the father’s perspective, it isn’t just getting to watch all his son’s games now that is special.
“I spent my whole life watching everybody else’s kid play,” Eric Snider said. “Now I have a chance to watch Jake on a daily basis, and get to see him battle the ups and the downs every day. I’m proud of him.”
Still, it took some adjusting when Jake began his freshman season.
“Probably freshman year sometimes I may not have always had the best feelings about it, but as I’m getting older – he’s been watching me since I was a little kid,” Jake said. “There’s no other person who knows me better as a player. He gives me the opportunity to be the best player I can be.”
And in this postseason – as he has been throughout his Louisville career – Jake Snider has been pretty good. His teammates call him “Postseason Jake,” a nickname he kind of shrugs off. But he has lived up to it again in 2019. He’s hitting .429 in the NCAA Tournament this season (12-28), with a home run, three doubles and 8 RBI.
“His Mom didn’t like the it, she felt like it put pressure on him,” Eric Snider said. “I don’t know how much he thinks about it. He just comes out and plays.”
Getting to watch his son play is something Eric Snider doesn’t take for granted. It’s something he didn’t always get to do.
“I remember him playing T-ball, and driving six or seven hours to watch him play,” Eric Snider said. “It was the greatest moment for me at that time, because he played some basketball and did the football thing, but I remember the T-ball thing.”
Like with many fathers and sons, the baseball field was where the pair met, and where many of their memories together rest.
“Just being at Illinois, I pretty much grew up on that field,” Jake said. “It was the greater part of my childhood. . . . Baseball has been the thing that brings us together. Growing up, he was busy working, and I was busy playing, too, but we always made sure we found time to get onto the baseball field to do something, no matter how long it might have been.”
This Father’s Day, they’ll be on a different field, and certainly on a bigger stage. Who knows whether there will be another moment like at the Super Regional.
“The moments just kind of present themselves,” Jake said. “I just wanted to make sure I found my dad before I congratulated anybody else.”
Regardless of the moment, the setting is gift enough.
“That’s a good Father’s Day gift,” Eric Snider said, turning to his son. “Thanks. I’ll take that.”