Swisher Happy for Ohio Homecoming and Signing with Tribe
Mike Brandyberry | On 04, Jan 2013
Nick Swisher may be the happiest person ever to move to Cleveland. If the production is half as entertaining and heart-felt as the press conference, Cleveland is in for a treat.
Thursday afternoon the Cleveland Indians introduced their new right fielder to the media. Swisher agreed a four-year contract, valued at $52 million on Dec. 23 with the Tribe but passed his physical and was officially added to the roster on Wednesday. His outgoing and infectious attitude could be felt in the room the moment he walked in, creating a feel not felt around the Indians in some time.
“We are excited to introduce Nick Swisher as the newest member of the Cleveland Indians,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “As we started our off season we wanted to fortify our lineup by bringing in an established run producer. In agreeing to terms with Nick, we’ve done exactly that. I’m not sure we could have found a more perfect compliment to our team and our organization.”
Swisher will be 32-years old for the 2013 season and has played eight full seasons in the big leagues between the Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. He is a consistent high, on-base percentage player, with power and a track record of great health. Swisher has hit more than 20 home runs in every season and has never played less than 148 games in a season since 2005.
“When we made our trip here, it was almost a done deal once we got here,” Swisher said.
The Indians made an all-out recruiting blitz of Swisher when he and his wife visited Cleveland the week before Christmas. The recruiting pitch was based around his Ohio State ties and a potential homecoming back to Ohio. The Indians had a highlight video prepared, including video messages from Buckeye head coaches Urban Meyer, Thad Matta and head baseball coach Greg Beals.
“We wanted to go somewhere where we would be wanted and where we would be loved,” Swisher said. “They showed all that. We are just blessed to be put in this situation and where my roots are—to play for my supposed home team—I just couldn’t be more excited.”
“We were just ourselves,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said. “We took him to dinner and gave him the tour. Sure, we had the highlight video, but that was the fun part for me, we were just ourselves at dinner. We had fun. There was no awkward getting to know you period. We hit the ground running. The hard part was letting him go. I wanted to sign him that night.”
Swisher was born in Columbus and played his college ball at The Ohio State University from 2000-02, earning All-Big 10 honors during his sophomore and junior campaigns and finished his Buckeye career tied for fourth in career home runs (35). He began his professional career in 2002 after being selected by Oakland in the first round (16th overall) of the draft. The baseball field at Ohio State University was recently dedicated in his honor (Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium) after his purchase of an all-turf playing surface in November 2011.
Swisher made it very clear how impressed he was with the Indians’ signing of Francona as their manager and how that helped attract him to Cleveland and their pursuit to win.
“For being the first time ever going through something like free agency, you want to push toward things that excite you,” Swisher said. “When Terry signed, you don’t bring a guy like this if you don’t plan on winning. To have a captain of your ship, that guy who is a proven guy and knows how to manage the game the right way, it was a very easy decision for me on the manager side.”
During the press conference Swisher was clear to call Francona, “a great recruiter.”
Francona would not commit to a specific place in the batting order but did assure everyone that Swisher will hit somewhere in the middle. He thinks it is important to find a lineup that works and remain consistent with that order. In addition to hitting in the middle of the order, Swisher will become an immediate face of the franchise and leader in the clubhouse for a young core.
“He’s a great team guy,” Francona said. “What comes along with his numbers and that he goes to the post all the time. He plays multiple positions, he is a switch hitter and he likes to play. He leads by example, just by being himself, he’ll be a leader.”
Swisher’s excitement and passion was clear the entire afternoon. He has already had conversations and contact with Indians’ players, including Chris Perez who lives five houses away from him. Swisher and Francona each hope his attitude and demeanor will be part of his leadership that will bring the Indians out of their 94-loss season a year ago and back to contention for the team and city.
“The things this organization has and the want to win, the ultimate goal is to bring it back to the 90s because this place was rockin’ and rollin’ here and was the place to be,” Swisher said. “With the moves they’ve made, we’re working our way back to that.”
On top of his dedication to the field and hopes to help provide an Indian revival, Swisher and his wife expect to be active in the community. They have contributed to each city he has played in during his nine year career.
“In addition to what he brings on the field, he brings a lot off the field,” Antonetti said. “As passionate as Nick plays, he and his wife JoAnna are that passionate in the work they do in the community.”
Nick and his wife, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, are very active in the community, having founded “Swish’s Wishes” in 2007 to assist children with life-threatening illnesses and recently making several USO-sponsored trips visit troops and families stationed in Afghanistan and Europe. The Swisher’s are donating at least $400,000 to Cleveland Indians Charities during the life of the contract.
“There are so many great things we’re going to be able to do off the field as well,” Swisher said. “In this world, with as much that has been given to you, you need to give back. For me and my wife, we are so excited about our new chapter in our lives.”
The Indians began his December visit to Cleveland by giving Swisher and his wife a onesey for their daughter they are expecting to be born in May.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland.com (headline), Mike Brandyberry (sidebar)