Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 3/13/12
Chris Snyder and Chris Wallace have much in common: Both are catchers that played high school ball in the Houston area well as at the University of Houston and both are trying to overcome significant career obstacles. Snyder is trying to extend a career which may have ended this off-season had the Astros not given the 31 year-old veteran an opportunity. Snyder underwent significant back surgery last summer which caused virtually every team to take a pass during the off-season. Wallace, only 22, is fortunate to be playing at all after a devastating injury to his face he suffered while at UH. At least Snyder had a successful Major League career. Wallace, drafted by the Astros in the 16th round of the 2010 draft, came close to not even getting a chance. In 2009, during Wallace's junior year with the Cougars, he was hit in the face with a 95 MPH pitch. "It blew up my entire cheekbone," Wallace said. "I have five metal plates and 42 screws (in the face)." Other than a slight scar under his right eye, Wallace has no noticeable disfiguration. The five-hour reconstructive surgery proved very successful. But the mental effects of such a horrifying injury took a little more work to overcome. "I went to a sports psychologist, Robert Andrews," said Wallace. "He really helped me through everything. I (still) think about it every day but it doesn't bug me anymore. It was several weeks of psychological work but it helped me out tremendously." While most folks would be worried about just looking normal after surgery, Wallace was still hoping to play baseball again. "I was definitely more concerned with being able to play baseball again," he said. "It just made me learn that this game can be taken away in an instant so not to take it for granted." Wallace is now in his first Major League camp. He split the 2011 season between the Astros' Class A team in Lexington and AA Corpus Christi. In 123 at bats at Corpus, Wallace batted .244 with six home runs. Wallace has displayed an ability to hit for power as a minor leaguer, knocking 20 long balls in 365 at bats as a professional. "One thing that keeps most kids from advancing in baseball is fear," said Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. "I've seen a lot of careers that have ended because of an incident like (Wallace's). For him to go through that and not only persevere but to advance his career is really a testament to his internal fortitude. Those are the type of things that make big leaguers." Snyder, meanwhile, is also enjoying a second chance. The Astros were the only team willing to take a chance on him last winter so he signed with his hometown team. "It's going to be incredible to get back there (to Houston)," Snyder said. "I grew up an Astros fan. Now the opportunity to wear the jersey, take the field and be a part of it is definitely incredible." In ten spring at bats Snyder has four hits, including a pair of home runs. "Everything feels good," he said. "I feel healthy and I feel strong and I've been holding up good. I have no complaints." Since Jason Castro is almost certain to be the Opening Day catcher, if Snyder makes the team, it will be in a back-up role. But as a veteran, Snyder can also provide some leadership to such a young roster. He said he's enjoying playing with younger players. "It's fun, man," said Snyder. "I'm having a good time. The guys have all come up together so there's a great core, great clubhouse chemistry. Whatever presence I can bring in the clubhouse, on the field, whatever" Snyder has been a mentor to Wallace this spring. "I talk to him every day," said Wallace. "I try to learn from him as much as I can while I'm here." There is a connection between the catchers beyond the fact that both played high school and college ball locally. They share the trait of overcoming, albeit at different ends of their respective career
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