The pitcher is spending his offseason coaching basketball, a sport he played as a senior for the Thunderbirds. He’s bringing lessons from the big leagues to high-school ball.
In a little over a month, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell will report to spring training for what is likely to be his first full season in the major leagues.
But he’s spent much of his offseason giving back to the school where his bright future began, Shorewood High School in Shoreline.
Snell, who starred for the baseball team at Shorewood, also played basketball during his senior year where he was coached by George Edwards, then an assistant coach. Edwards was named the school’s head coach earlier this year, prompting a message of congratulations from Snell — and an offer.
Snell wanted to help coach the Thunderbirds during the MLB offseason, which Edwards would later accept.
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“He’s a great guy,” Edwards said. “He just wants to be around and wants to give back. He hasn’t changed since high school. He’s just a very humble person. To have him want to come back is just awesome.”
When it comes to strategy, Edwards didn’t know what to expect from Snell, but it turns out the 24-year-old had a lot to contribute.
“He only played one year for us, and I wasn’t quite sure about his coaching ability,” Edwards said. “Honestly, he does just fine. He doesn’t do a lot of the X’s and O’s, he’s learning that as we’re going. He’s more the mental stuff.”
Snell pitched in the minor leagues for five years before being called up to the Rays in June. He’s been able to share many of the things he’s learned during his journey with the players.
“The thing that I feel like I can help the most is with the mindset,” Snell said. “I feel like the mindset is the same as baseball, it’s just a different game. … I feel like I help them in a way where if they ever get out of line, I can just relate something to them really quick where they don’t have to think about it as much.”
The players have taken well to Snell’s coaching.
“He has a lot of influence on us, because it almost gives us an idea that maybe we could make it that far,” sophomore guard Skyler Hammer said. “He’s really good at talking to us about how to handle certain situations because he’s been in situations like that before.”
Snell’s status as a major-league pitcher hasn’t been a distraction, either, according to Hammer.
“He’s just like a friend now,” he added.
The rebuilding Thunderbirds have struggled, losing their first 10 games, making what Snell has to teach all the more valuable.
“(Blake has) come in and just talked about the competitive mindset, about getting your mindset right to go in and control the things you can control,” Edwards said. “He’s talked about when he’s on the mound, and he thinks he threw the perfect pitch and the umpire says it was a ball and how he reacts. They can do the same thing in a basketball game. When an official makes a call, they’ve got a choice. They can get all upset and let it get to them, or they can say, ‘That’s the call; let’s move on to the next play.’ That’s what we’re working on.”
Snell, who finished his first MLB season with a 6-8 record and a 3.54 ERA, hopes to have a long career in the big leagues, but coaching is something he would like to continue when his playing days are over.
“When I’m done I definitely want to coach basketball, but baseball is where my heart is,” Snell said. “It’s definitely where I will start coaching when I’m done playing. I think coaching kids is fun. You get to see them grow and develop. You get to see the kids that really want it, and the kids that are just playing to play and have fun. I think it’s cool because then you have to know when you are talking to each kind of kid.”