One doesn’t need to travel far around Ohio State’s athletic complexes to witness the effect Nick Swisher has had on the baseball program.
In November 2011, the former Buckeye outfielder donated $500,000 to the team for the installation of artificial turf at Bill Davis Stadium. The school honored Swisher by calling OSU baseball’s home, “Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.”
Nearly five years has past since that day, and Swisher is in the midst of revitalizing his major-league career.
Swisher played for OSU from 2000-2002 contributing to the program’s last NCAA Regional championship. Following the ‘02 season, Swisher was selected at No. 16 overall by the Oakland Athletics in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Swisher is currently in his 13th season as a big-leaguer but currently resides in Yankees’ triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hoping to don the pinstripes again soon.
Known as one of the more boisterous alumni of OSU, Swisher has never been one to shy away from showing his pride for his alma mater. This past weekend, he played two games against the Cleveland Indians’ triple-A affiliate, Columbus Clippers, at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus. Swisher swung a blistering bat smacking three home runs and six RBIs while going 5-for-9 at the plate.
After each of his home runs, cheers were heard around the stadium for No. 33, causing him to throw up the “O-H-I-O” to the delight of the Columbus-area fans.
“I always try to be a crowd pleaser,” Swisher said. “Just being able to come back and having success in this ballpark in front of those people who have watched me through the years is great.”
While in Columbus, he said that people could have caught him reminiscing around OSU’s campus. Swisher said that he drove through the area he once called home and stopped for a bit at the place where his whole career started. He may only think of his college career when on the turf he payed for, but the prints of Swisher’s accomplishments when wearing scarlet and gray won’t soon fade from the memories of Buckeye fans.
As a Buckeye fan himself, Swisher watched this year’s OSU baseball team win the Big Ten tournament championship. He said not just winning a Big Ten title, but having six players drafted was a monumental moment for the program. Being one of five players in the last 15 years taken out of OSU in the top two rounds, Swisher was very complimentary of coach Greg Beals’ work with the program and his ability to transform recruits into professional players.
“By all this happening, maybe more people take note of that and say, ‘Hey man, Ohio State can get these guys drafted as well,’” he said. Hopefully it’s really starting to turn now.”
Swisher has played for the Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves in his tenure in the majors. He won a World Series championship in 2009 and was an All-Star in 2010 in New York. Once he came over to Cleveland in 2012, his stats dipped tremendously.
After hitting around .200 the past two seasons, now at age 35, Swisher is back with the organization where he experienced his best seasons.
There has been a gaping hole at first base all season for the New York Yankees, one which Swisher can close. Since the spring, the Yankees has had four first basemen on the DL, some of which remain hurt. Aging first baseman Mark Teixeira has one of the worst slugging percentages of all eligible players in MLB. Now with his two backups on the DL, strong performances like the ones in Columbus could put Swisher back in the Yankees clubhouse.
“I think for myself, just kind of getting everything back on track and really controlling the things that I can control,” he said. “That’s really all I can really do for myself.”
There’s no denying that Swisher is nearing the end of his career as a ballplayer. For a guy who’s had success and a lot of time at the major-league level, you can imagine it’s not easy for him to maintain his focus.
“That’s the hard part, man. It’s not where you want to be, but then again in a sense you have to re-prove yourself again and again,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, bro, I’m just trying to claw and scratch my way back to ‘The Show’ one more time. I still feel like I can do a lot in this game.”
Swisher is a career .249 hitter in the MLB.