ST. LOUIS -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker grew up in Macon, Ill., a small town home to fewer than 2,000 people located in the middle of the state.
It's roughly a two-hour drive from Busch Stadium, where the Braves will face the Cardinals over the next three days, a place that fits the population of Macon inside of it over 22 times. Though he grew up rooting for the Cubs due to his dad's fandom, Snitker holds fond memories of St. Louis as well.
"This is where we would come," Snitker said. "My dad and uncles, we'd bring everybody. We'd park the car in one of the garages and we'd walk across the catwalk to old Busch Stadium. Mom would make chicken and we'd tailgate and then come to the game. It was great."
His time in St. Louis has clearly left a mark, but it's his fabled 1971 Macon High School Ironmen who will go down in history. Snitker was a sophomore right fielder when his small-town school made it to the state finals against Waukegan before schools were divided by size. Even though his team lost, it inspired a book as a sort of baseball equivalent to "Hoosiers."
His high school coach, Lynn Sweet, and a number of players from that '71 team were in attendance Friday night, according to Snitker.
"The small-town relationships and the country hard ball we played," Snitker said. "We were a pretty good little team."
He still uses the lessons Sweet taught him as a player to guide the Braves.
"Especially when I was a Minor League manager and even here," he said. "Just take it a day at a time and don't worry about the pitcher. Don't worry about yesterday, certainly don't worry about tomorrow, live in the present and see what we can do today to make things happen."
Snitker also has ties to current Cardinals players, and though he didn't have the Cardinals series circled on his calendar when he was named interim manager, he appreciates the town that helped foster his love for baseball.
"[I] called Adam Wainwright when he was traded and said, 'Man, you're going to baseball heaven,'" Snitker said. "The people, the farming communities surrounding this, they support this thing. It's a sea of red and it has always been a lot of fun to come here just because they appreciate baseball."
Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Braves on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.