World Series 2021 - Inside Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker's long and winding road to a championship

FREDDIE FREEMAN CLENCHED the baseball with his glove as he approached his jubilant teammates near the pitcher's mound at Houston's Minute Maid Park last week. He stuffed it in his back pocket amid all the euphoria, then hid it in his locker as the celebration continued. Freeman had lost the ball that went for the final out in the Atlanta Braves' pennant-clinching celebration 10 days earlier, and he was determined not to let that happen with the final out of the 2021 World Series.

This ball belonged to Brian Snitker.

"He means so much to this organization," Freeman said moments after a Game 6 victory over the Houston Astros. "He's put on every hat there is in this organization."

Snitker, 66, spent 35 years with the Braves -- coaching in 10 minor league cities, navigating 19 job changes -- before finally becoming their manager in 2016.

Just a few years earlier, he had suffered a major league demotion that nearly broke him.

"We thought that was it for him," Braves minor league hitting coach Greg Walker said. "It turns out it wasn't."