Florida native returns to sun, comfort with Dunedin Jays

   
  
   
  
    
  
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 Left-handed pitcher Kirby Snead finds his changeup grip at the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league facility in Dunedin, Fla. Photo Credit: Cam Newell

Left-handed pitcher Kirby Snead finds his changeup grip at the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league facility in Dunedin, Fla. Photo Credit: Cam Newell

By Cam Newell

Canadian Baseball Network                                      

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Florida is loved by more than Canadian snowbirds and spring breakers – baseball players enjoy it too.

One Toronto Blue Jays prospect who thrives in the warmth is pitcher Kirby Snead.

Snead grew up in Alachua, Fla., a short 25-minute drive from the University of Florida campus where he pitched for the Gators. His next stop: the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts in the Midwest League.

“The first day, we got snowed out, and it was just kind of a whole different experience for me,” the Dunedin Blue Jays’ left-hander said, sitting under the hot sun at The Bobby Mattick Training Center.

“The main transition for me was just, figuring out how to get a routine going of getting myself warm and getting myself used to throwing in cold weather.”

After pitching for the Gators from 2014 to 2016, he was selected by the Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Snead had a cold, disappointing April in Lansing but rebounded and did not allow an earned run for 12 consecutive innings through May and early June before being called up to class-A Advanced Florida State League Dunedin in mid-June of 2017. He also improved against right-handed hitters specifically, a goal the team had set for him from the start of the season.

“That was my main focus all year long – just figuring out a formula to get them out,” he said. “Once I did, it upped my game even more and it kind of let me build confidence and realize that I can throw to more than just lefties.”

The familiarity he found in Dunedin enhanced his game further as he elevated his play at the Advanced-A level. Snead was 3-1 with a 1.36 earned run average for Dunedin over the remainder of the season and said he was extremely comfortable in his situation by the end of the year.

“I grew up playing in South Florida my whole life, for 20 plus years. I mean, my parents can take an hour and a half drive and be here to watch me play,” he said. “Some of the fields we played at in this league I played at growing up at showcases and things like that so it’s literally just, it’s nothing new for me.”