ATLANTA — Brian Snitker finally was given his most-cherished prize for four decades of service to the Atlanta Braves.
Snitker was hired by the Braves as their full-time manager on Tuesday, rewarded for helping reverse the team’s direction in his interim role this season.
The Braves finished last in the NL East but won 20 of their final 30 games under Snitker, who became interim manager on May 17 after Fredi Gonzalez was fired. Snitker had a 59-65 record, including 37-35 after the All-Star break.
Despite the strong finish under Snitker, the Braves also interviewed former managers Bud Black and Ron Washington.
Snitker, who turns 61 next week, was hired for the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He said the contract won’t be a problem.
“No, I trust everybody,” Snitker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the team’s organizational meetings in Orlando, Florida.
“I understand how all this works. I’m good with it. Would I like a five-year deal? Absolutely, but I’m good. I’m going to go do the best job I can regardless of the contract situation. It’s something I don’t think will ever be a stickler for me at this point.”
The Braves also announced Snitker’s staff.
Washington became the third-base coach and Chuck Hernandez is the new pitching coach. There’s also bench coach Terry Pendleton, first base coach Eddie Perez, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, assistant hitting coach Jose Castro and bullpen coach Marty Reed.
Snitker has been with the Braves since joining the organization as a player in 1977. He served as Atlanta’s third base coach from 2006-13 but spent most of his four decades with the organization as a minor league manager. He had been the manager at Triple-A Gwinnett before replacing Gonzalez on an interim basis.
He said his long service with the organization made Tuesday’s news especially satisfying.
“It makes you feel good,” he said. “It validates all the hard work.”
When Snitker was named Atlanta’s interim manager, it was widely thought the team would look outside the organization for a new skipper to take the team into its first season in new SunTrust Park.
Instead, Snitker won over the players and front office. Atlanta was 9-28 when Gonzalez was fired and appeared bound for 100 losses at 18-46 before it began a dramatic turnaround under Snitker.
“Brian earned this opportunity through his dedication to the Braves and to our players,” general manager John Coppolella said in a statement. “We are excited for the energy and momentum he will bring into SunTrust Park next season.”
Atlanta’s strong finish under Snitker, bolstered by the additions of rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson and veteran left fielder Matt Kemp, boosted expectations for next season.
Braves president John Hart said last week the season had been “spiraling out of control” before Snitker “restored order.”
Snitker gave credit to his players.
“These guys never quit,” he said. “When I got there they had been beat over the head pretty good with the record and all.”
Hernandez, 55, was the Braves’ minor league pitching coordinator this season, his 31st as a coach. He was the Marlins’ pitching coach from 2013-15. The Marlins’ 3.71 ERA in 2013 and 3.78 in 2014 were the two best in franchise history.
“He spent the 2016 season working closely with many of our young, talented pitchers who will be such an important part of our future,” Coppolella said.
Washington, 64, spent the last two seasons on Oakland’s coaching staff after managing the Texas Rangers from 2007 to 2014.
Coppolella said Washington’s experience as a manager “will be an asset to everyone on the club. His tireless work ethic, up-beat attitude and tremendously high baseball IQ will benefit our players and our staff.”