Expect the Unexpected from Snyder
March 2, 2010
By Becky Hart, Bucknell Athletic Communications
With Jessie Snyder, Bucknell fans have come to expect the unexpected. The infielder's home state, what she has accomplished in her short time in the Orange and Blue, and how she relaxes do not quite fall in the realm of the ordinary. Yet it is all paying off for her and her teammates.
Those familiar with Bucknell softball are no longer surprised by the influx of student-athletes from the West Coast filling the Bison's roster. The 2010 squad boasts six players from California alone. While Snyder can join many of her teammates in stories of the long-distance move from the Pacific to the Mid-Atlantic, her journey is a unique one. The junior calls Tacoma, Wash., home, making her the only Bison in program history to hail from the Evergreen State. Despite sharing a time zone with her California teammates, Snyder's softball experiences are probably more similar to those of her Pennsylvania teammates.
"We get kind of grouped in with the West Coast, and everyone says that the West Coast gets to play all the time. We're obviously not that way since it rains a lot in Washington," explains Snyder. "I feel like it's pretty comparable to what it is out here because we have a very distinct season. When spring comes around we can play, and we play through October if we can."
Many of the similarities end there, however. Even Snyder's decision to head east stemmed from a desire to be different. Different is what she found, too, as her first two years in Lewisburg took some getting used to, adjusting to small-town living and long winters.
"The biggest thing for me is Lewisburg is much smaller than Tacoma. Tacoma's one of the biggest cities in Washington, so it was big a difference for me," says Snyder. "My high school was 1,800 kids, so to come here, it was a little different.
"The weather is different," she continues. "We would get some snow in Washington, but not like here. It's not cold for eight months in Washington. It's moderate for eight months, but it's never this cold. It was kind of a culture shock when I first got here. I've adjusted pretty well. I like Pennsylvania, it's just different."
Those differences obviously did not deter Snyder in her choice to attend Bucknell.
"When I started looking for colleges, I definitely looked a little bit more on the East Coast than a lot of my teammates at home and my schoolmates because it's so far away. I wanted to do something different and if I'm going to be in school for a couple years, I might as well do it somewhere where I'm not going to be for the rest of my life," says Snyder. "I just loved Bucknell. It felt right. I liked the setting, and I liked that it was small. I liked the combination of really, really great academics and still good softball. You're definitely a student-athlete and not an athlete who happens to go to school, which is nice for me."
Bucknell has proved to be a good fit and any trouble getting acclimated to her new home did not show last season as Snyder made another unexpected move. After having a respectable freshman campaign, Snyder experienced a breakthrough as a sophomore, leading Bucknell in a number of statistical categories and sending a message to opponents that she was a changed player. Snyder improved her batting average from .229 as a freshman to .328 last year, good for third on the team, and led the Bison in slugging percentage at .586 after a .290 performance a year earlier. She also doubled her RBI total and drilled six home runs after connecting for just one in her debut season.
While the increased offensive production might have been a pleasant surprise to Bison fans, it was not for Snyder and her teammates. The second baseman, who also spent significant time at shortstop last year after teammate Alyssa Okita was struck with a knee injury, had spent her offseason working on the skills that would put her at the top of her game.
"You are always taught to expect to do well. You don't ever expect to do badly; that's just not a good idea. That was my goal going into the season, to hit over .300 and improve my fielding percentage. It was so nice for it to all work out," recalls Snyder. "My freshman year I did well. I had a lot of fun, but I definitely came back the summer after my freshman year and had a lot of things I wanted to work on. Last fall and last spring, we put in a lot of work as a team, and a couple of the girls that I'm close with went in extra. We did a lot of things because that was really important for us to do well this last season."
Snyder now knows the cat is out of the bag in terms of what she is capable of on the field. She also knows that her work is nowhere near being finished and that she has to continue to improve to reach her ultimate goals.
"I think junior year is kind of a cool year. Every year I get more comfortable. I'm really excited to know that I have established some sort of reputation on the team and the league," says Snyder. "I still have to fight for everything I get on the field in playing time, but it's nice to know that I've proved myself a little bit. The biggest thing is I just have to do it again. I did well last year, but I can always do better. I expect to do better than I did last year because to do otherwise would be disappointing."
Although her ability to keep her emotions in check cannot be monitored in the stats, Snyder names it as a key component to her success. Not only is honing that ability on her to-do list this season, but she also sees it as a reason for her improvement over the last year and even since the beginning of her career. A positive attitude on the field has always been a must and her parents have tried to instill that in her from day one.
"What I got from my parents was the attitude thing. You always had to have a good attitude. I never got pulled from games, but if I ever had a bad attitude, they would have yanked me out," says Snyder, whose dad played baseball at Findlay College in Ohio. "It was very important in my house to be positive. I'll call my dad and he won't even let me complain now about anything. I want to be mad about striking out. I want to be mad, and it's not even an option."
When the stress of athletics does start to weigh on her, Snyder switches from home plate to pie plates. Cooking, especially baking, is a favorite hobby of Snyder, and one that her teammates can appreciate. Pie is her specialty, and she showed it off with her culinary contribution at the team's Thanksgiving dinner last fall. In the December entry of the Bison's student-athlete journal series on BucknellBison.com, teammate Alison Ford referred to the "pumpkin and strawberry-apple pie by our baking extraordinaire" as part of a "feast to be remembered." Being the team's resident pastry expert is a responsibility Snyder gladly accepts.
"I have actually considered if the whole English thing doesn't work out, I might want to go to culinary school," says Snyder. "When we have team dinners or team get-togethers, which we do pretty often, I'll make a pie. It's relaxing to make pie. I think I've actually wanted to own a bakery for longer than I've wanted to do anything else in my life."
Owning a bakery may be one of Snyder's oldest dreams, but here at Bucknell, the English major has other plans. Snyder is considering graduate school with an eye toward teaching at a university level in the future. In the meantime, she is staying active on campus and working with local children as part of the team's Bison Buddies program, teaching at softball clinics in the offseason and participating in disaster preparedness drills with the Red Cross.
Whether Snyder ends up walking the halls of Bucknell as an English professor, on Food Network sharing her pie-baking expertise or back in Washington on a completely different career path, one thing is for sure: We can all expect the unexpected.
Note: This story appeared in a recent edition of the Bucknell Basketball Gameday Program.