PHOENIX (AP) -Chris Snyder was picking out a train set for his son at a toy store when a fan walked up and wished him luck.
It doesn't happen all that often. Snyder is something of an unknown even though he's the starting catcher on the team with the best record in the NL.
``It's fun just to know that our city is into it,'' Snyder said.
Snyder might not get much attention. But he's one of the reasons the Diamondbacks are in the NL championship series, which opens Thursday night against Colorado.
``He's the best guy I've ever thrown to receivingwise, and I don't know where I'd be without him for sure because he's helped me out a lot this year,'' said Brandon Webb, the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner.
The Diamondbacks' staff had a 3.73 ERA when Snyder was behind the plate, the fourth lowest by a catcher in the majors this season. Arizona went 65-41 with Snyder behind the plate and 25-31 without him.
Webb said Snyder ``has been a guy that I could count on to be prepared every day. He definitely does his homework, not only for me, for everybody that he coaches.''
``There's very little that I have to do or to worry about to get prepared for the games,'' Webb said. ``We basically just go over the lineup for a couple minutes before the game and we're pretty much ready to go.''
Preparation comes naturally for the 26-year-old Snyder, who has been a catcher for as long as he remembers. He enjoys the mental challenge of the position as much as the physical.
``It's a position that's come natural,'' Snyder said. ``I'm in control. You have control and the game's in your hands. Being a catcher, you take that role as a leader.''
Like many of his teammates, Snyder is a product of Arizona's fertile farm system. The Diamondbacks drafted the Texan in the second round in 2002.
Snyder rose quickly through the system, spending only two full seasons in the minors before being promoted from Double-A El Paso in 2004.
Snyder started 115 games in 2005, but he hit only .202. The Diamondbacks wanted more production from the position, so they acquired Johnny Estrada. Snyder played in only 61 games last year, batting .277.
Last winter, the Diamondbacks traded Estrada to Milwaukee as part of the deal for left-handed starter Doug Davis. But they weren't ready to turn the catching job over to Snyder. As this season began, he split time with Miguel Montero, another Arizona farm product.
For Snyder, sharing the job was difficult.
``It's tough when you have always been a starter,'' he said. ``I had to dig down deep and not settle for being a catcher who struggles to hit .225.''
Snyder made himself indispensable with his glove and his leadership, and he soon took over the starting job. Snyder threw out 18-of-60 basestealers this year (30 percent), his best career percentage.
He likes to remind opposing hitters - especially those who may try to steal if they reach base - that he's got a good arm.
``I like talking to the speedsters,'' Snyder said. ``I'll tell them, 'You better get a good jump.'''
Snyder had one error and nine passed balls in 106 games.
``My defense is my main focus,'' he said. ``I've told everybody that for years. It's beating a dead horse. But I want to be able to contribute (at the plate). I don't want to be a guy who they're walking guys to get to me.''
That was the case in the first half of the season. Snyder was hitting .219 at the All-Star break, but in the second half he hit. 292 with 16 doubles, six homers and 31 RBIs.
He finished hitting .252 with 20 doubles, 13 homers and 47 RBIs - solid numbers in Arizona's low-watt batting order.
Snyder, who has been battling a sore wrist, went 1-for-7 with no RBIs in the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the first round. He didn't start Game 3 because Montero always catches Livan Hernandez.
Snyder will be back behind the plate when Webb faces the Rockies on Thursday night. Snyder doesn't expect his young teammates to be intimidated by the spotlight.
``We're just trying to stay even-keel,'' he said. ``We're relying on our youth. We're relying on the fact that we're just having fun.''

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