By Matt Goisman
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Longtime baseball professor Don Sneddon steps into managing role at Wareham
There must be something about California community college baseball that makes its coaches a good fit for the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Yarmouth-Dennis field manager Scott Pickler has spent over two decades balancing his time between Cypress College on the West Coast and Yarmouth-Dennis. Jerry Weinstein was at one point the winningest coach in California community college history with Sacramento City College before becoming Wareham’s manager last summer.
Weinstein brought along Don Sneddon, a longtime rival at Santa Ana College, as his third base coach, then departed after a year to manage the Hartford Yard Goats, the Colorado Rockies’ Class AA affiliate.
Now it’s Sneddon’s turn as the Gatemen’s manager.
“I was honored to get the position,” Sneddon said. “It was on my bucket list at the time. I just finished (managing) pro ball, and that wasn’t my cup of tea, so this is something I’ve wanted to do.”
Sneddon, a 65-year-old native Californian, goes back decades with amateur baseball. He played in the Alaska Baseball League in the mid-1970s and later became a manager, leading the 1980 Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks to both league and national championships.
The ABL’s alumni includes former Boston Red Sox stars J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, plus Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Jered Weaver.
“The Alaska League and Cape Cod were arch enemies, if you will, and it was very good baseball in those days,” Sneddon said. “We play in something called the ‘Midnight Sun Game,’ which is famous, and it starts at 10 at night and uses absolutely no lights.”
Sneddon added, “I’m an outdoorsman. The best fishing in the world is right there, so if you can combine baseball and fishing, what’s better than that?”
Sneddon’s time in Alaska pales in comparison to his Santa Ana success. He spent 32 years managing the Dons, winning a record 1,072 games, three state championships and 16 Orange Empire Conference titles in a Hall of Fame career that lasted through 2013.
A number of Sneddon’s players went on to the Cape League and later the majors. He was inducted into the SAC Hall of Fame in 2015, the same year as 11-year professional pitcher CJ Wilson, a player Sneddon still fondly remembers.
“He was a character,” Sneddon said. “When he got with us, he was just an average guy. But he was so competitive, and he knew how to play the game, and he made himself into that pitcher.”
Serving as a third base coach was a new experience for Sneddon. Still, he found working with college-age players enjoyable, especially compared with the Modesto Nuts, the Rockies’ high Class A team he managed between Santa Ana and Wareham.
“I enjoy teaching,” Sneddon said. “At the community college level, you’re a professor and you’re also a baseball coach. My other hat that I wear is I’m an exercise physiologist.”
Wareham general manager Andrew Lang said he sat down with Sneddon after last season to discuss potentially taking over as manager. Weinstein’s departure in the offseason opened the door for Sneddon once the Wareham executive board approved his promotion.
“It was a seamless transition from Jerry to Don,” Lang said. “Coaching in this league is a lot about relationships, and I felt that I had a really good relationship with both Jerry and Don.”
Robbie Metz got to know Sneddon fairly well last year, the George Washington infielder putting together an All-Star season with Wareham and returning to the team this year. Metz credited Sneddon for helping him adjust his swing to the increased speed of the Cape League and said he was excited to learn Sneddon would be managing this year.
“I knew what I was going to have to do up here when I came,” Metz said. “I learned so much around him, so it’s great being up here.”