- By Doug Harris Contributing Writer
Gabe Snyder had to fight off discouragement as a redshirt freshman at Wright State. He was making the switch from pitcher to position player and seemed a long way from making a meaningful contribution.
“Being a redshirt, you can get down over not being able to help the team. You almost feel you’re not quite a part of the team. But my coaches and teammates helped to keep me up,” he said.
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“I always had the potential to be pretty good. I always had good size, strength and speed. Our coaches really helped to develop it, and I worked hard every day.”
Looking over the progress he’s made, the fifth-year senior said: “This is what I hoped to be. It’s special to be at this point right now.”
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound first-baseman is the most prolific power hitter the Raiders have ever produced. He set the career home run record with his 43rd on Sunday and also is the all-time leader in RBIs with 199.
He has a Horizon League-leading 14 homers and 57 RBIs this year. He’s also second on the Raiders in doubles (15), third in hitting (.352) and fourth in steals (nine), and he has as many walks as strikeouts (19 each).
“Gabe is the shining example of the redshirt process and a guy who really invests in his own personal growth,” coach Jeff Mercer said.
“He’s a special player. He’s as good an all-around player as we’ve had in our program in my time as a player or coach (since 2008). He’s got an ability to hit to all fields, hit for power and hit for average.”
Snyder’s home-run output might surprise those who watched him at West Holmes High School in Millersburg, Ohio. His single-season high there was four.
“I didn’t have quite the amount of home runs you’d expect. But once I got here, I developed, and the raw power I had kind of came out,” he said.
Alfredo Batista, who played from 1983-86, set the previous RBI record with 183. And Bryan Vickers (2002-05) was the home-run king with 42.
Both have been gracious about being usurped by Snyder.
“Vickers left me a voicemail a couple weeks ago before I broke the record. He said, ‘I want you to do it. I hope you do.’ He was giving me some good advice, and it was really good to hear,” Snyder said. “And Alfredo has been around the team a little bit. He was congratulating me and saying it was a big honor. They were really nice about it.”
Snyder has a chance to topple more records. The single-season marks for home runs (16) and RBIs (74) appear within range since the 29-13 Raiders have 11 more regular-season games along with the conference tourney and potentially an NCAA trip.
Mercer, a former all-league player for the Raiders, has a share of the RBI record and is tied for first for most doubles with 26, and he quipped he might have to do something sinister to preserve his place in history.
“I always joke with him, ‘Break any records you want. Just don’t break my records,” Mercer said.
“I told him, ‘Remember, if you get close, I hold the lineup card, so I may have to get you out of there before you break any of those.”
The Wright State women reached the semifinals of the conference tourney before being bounced by UIC. They finished the season 20-12.
The Raider men (13-12) were eliminated in the first round.