OLE MISS

Snopek Reminisces 17 Years After Opening Day Start

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On baseball's Opening Day in 1997, Chris Snopek got the start at third base for the Chicago White Sox against the Toronto Blue Jays. Nearly 17 years later to the day, he remembers the setting well.

"I was blessed to have that opportunity," Snopek said. "It was awesome. We opened in the Toronto SkyDome playing against Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar and those guys. It was pretty intense."

A three-year Ole Miss letterman from 1990-92, Snopek became the 10th All-American in school history when Baseball America made him a third-team choice in 1992, having hit at a .407 clip for the season, setting then-school records with 21 doubles and 62 RBIs.

Snopek, now a facility director and baseball instructor of P360 Sports, a performance sports complex based in Ridgeland, Miss., recounts playing for coach Jake Gibbs and coach Don Kessinger, and lessons learned from his time in Oxford.

"I learned the value of working hard," Snopek said. "Going to Ole Miss, I only knew the freshman guys on the baseball team. I learned how to earn respect and how to adapt, having played at Ole Miss in the SEC - and the perseverance of working day in and day out - to constantly work on your craft."

Following his successful junior campaign in 1992, Snopek was selected in the sixth round of the MLB Draft by the White Sox. During the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Snopek made minor league stops in South Bend, Ind., Sarasota, Fla., and most notably Birmingham, Ala., where he was teammates with basketball legend Michael Jordan.

"It was a circus-like atmosphere with all the media following us," said Snopek of the 1994 season in Birmingham. "As minor league players, we did not have access to that until he got there. He brought a lot of attention to the team, which gave us a platform to show our skills as players. It put me on pace to get to the big leagues and opened a lot of doors for me."

A year later, that door opened, and Snopek made his major league debut with the White Sox on July 31, 1995. As a rookie, he hit a career-best .324 with a home run and seven RBIs in 22 games. He went on to play 207 games over four seasons in the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

He credits his defense and ability to hit for making it to, and staying in the major leagues, but looking back, he sees another area where he could have improved.

"Before I got to the big leagues, I hit about .300. In the big leagues, I hit .300 the first year. But I did not adapt well as being a utility guy. If I could go back, I would have taken more time and learned how to play every couple of days, like Seth Smith who does so well as a pinch-hitter."

One of the most prolific hitters in Ole Miss baseball history, Snopek remains close with his former teammates and the program with Oxford just a short 2.5-hour drive away.

"Living in Jackson, you get access to all the local material," Snopek said. "We try to get back to Oxford three to four times a year. We follow Ole Miss closely, and we're still big supporters of them.

"It's become a national brand, instead of just a Southeast brand," Snopek said. "It's a top-30, top-40 school, as far as all athletes. In baseball, it's a top-15, top-20 school, which is pretty good relative to other schools out there. It's a credit to Coach Bianco, Coach Freeze, Coach Kennedy and really Ross Bjork as athletics director."

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