Ryan Snowden holds a career .344 batting average in his two seasons at Illinois, currently ranking 17th in Illini history.
April 30, 2007
During his school-record 25-game hit streak, senior Ryan Snowden didn't boast or brag to his teammates. In fact, Snowden's teammates seemed to revel in the hit streak more than he did.
"It was his hitting streak, but we felt we were kind of a part of it," senior first baseman Mike Rohde said. "We were there and we got to watch it the whole way."
Snowden is a man of few words. Coaches tease him that they don't know whether he's in a good mood or miserable, but he would rather let his actions do the talking. His dedication to making himself and his team better has helped him to become one of the Illini's most consistent players.
"He makes everybody around better," assistant coach Eric Snider said. "He'll be around here hitting in the cage and everyone will follow."
"His approach is very sound and consistent," Rohde said. "You see him hit off the tee every day and he does the same swing and same routine every time."
Snowden is the kind of player coaches, teammates and fans love. The one that shows up everyday, busts his tail and gives all he can. And he does it with consistency.
"I think he embodies the label `just one of the guys,'" Rohde said. "He's not arrogant in any way. He goes out there every day and does his job and plays hurt, and then on the bus he has fun and jokes around."
"I'm not a real vocal guy," Snowden said. "I'm kind of low-key and let other guys take care of that stuff. I just try to show work ethic by showing up early and leaving late and just working hard."
Teammates and coaches seem to exude a sense of pride when they talk about Snowden, and it would be hard not to. He seems to personify the idea that hard work pays off.
Snowden was not offered a Division-I scholarship out of high school, while junior Ryan Hastings, Snowden's high school teammate at Mattoon, signed on with Illinois. Snider said the Illini looked at Snowden but did not have enough spots open in the outfield to sign him.
"A lot of guys I played with growing up were all going on to Division-I schools to play baseball," Snowden said. "I always thought I was that same caliber of player, so that's why I went to junior college to extend my career."
Snowden attended Kaskaskia Community College and made a quick impression. After being named KCC Rookie of the Year in 2004, Snowden hit .381 with 50 runs, 28 RBI and 20 steals on his way to being named team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year for KCC in 2005.
Snowden said he kept in contact with Hastings while at KCC but had not heard from Illinois coaches as his junior college career neared its end. Suddenly, late in the spring of 2005, Illinois coaches came and saw him play. The next week, Snowden visited Illinois and was offered a scholarship, which he immediately accepted.
"I've always wanted to come here and go to school. I was always a big Illinois fan watching basketball and football, so when I got the chance I took it right away."
Snowden said playing junior college baseball was one of his best decisions.
"When you're a freshman, you have to make the decision if you want to go to a Division I school and maybe sit the bench a while and wait your turn or you can go to the junior college level and get a lot of playing time and experience," Snowden said. "I think that helped me out a lot."
Snowden made an instant impact for the Illini last year. After bouncing around the batting order in the first few weeks of the season, Snowden found his niche in the lead-off spot and flourished. He led the Illini in batting average (.342), slugging (.461), on-base percentage (.435), runs (53), hits (76), doubles (20) and total bases (103), and was named second team All-Big Ten. This season, he's among team leaders in average, runs, hits, slugging percentage and doubles.
Snowden didn't hear about his hit streak until a reporter asked him about it after 13 or 14 games. Most of his teammates didn't talk to him about the streak for fear of jinxing him, but it was hard to ignore.
Snowden said Hastings teased him about the streak by rubbing his shoulders before games saying that the streak was too "heavy on his shoulders."
Rohde said that when he asked Snowden about the streak, he shrugged it off and said he didn't know how many games it was at.
"He might have three hits, but it wasn't good enough for him," Rohde said. "He's never satisfied and I think that's why the hitting streak went for so long. He really didn't care about it. He just cared about getting better and helping the team."