|Terry Francona assists Nich Swisher into his new Cleveland Indians uniform.|
Going to a football stadium is awe inspiring but for me, a ballpark -- a baseball park to be perfectly clear -- brings to life what I read as a kid and the sport that my grandfather introduced to me. Ballparks give you a sense of history, of nostalgia, and of community. My first time inside Yankee Stadium, I whispered a quick prayer to my grandfather. "Pops, we're here," I breathlessly said. I've been to different ballparks - the retro and beautiful Camden Yards, historical Fenway Park, and there's the Jake or as Jacobs Field was nicknamed. The park is now called Progressive Field after the naming rights were sold to the insurance company. It'll always be the Jake to me even if I am not an Indians fan. But I did watch them a plenty as they played my Yankees for American League supremacy in the 1990s.
Who didn't know that team? They had Omar Vizquel, Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Marquis Grissom, Manny Ramirez, Orel Hershiser, Charles Nagy, Bartolo Colon, Jack McDowell, and mean pitching Jose Mesa. When they made the World Series in 1997, I rooted for them to beat the Florida Marlins (I have no idea why I cannot stand teams from Florida).
The Yankees have ties here. The late George Steinbrenner was from Ohio and built his shipyards there. The late Yankee captain Thurman Munson was from there and died in a plane crash outside Akron. Nick Swisher is from Colombus and although he came to New York via Chicago (a trade I think for Wilson Betemit). Like Steinbrenner, he is a Buckeye having also gone to Ohio State University. Swish proved himself to be a valuable addition during the 2009 season that saw the Bronx Bombers win their 27th World Series. That was a magical season much like 1996 was or the latter part of 2001 even if New York did not win the World Series.
Swish came on board along with AJ Burnett and that meant the staid locker room would get a healthy dose of laughter and spice with the two on board. I recall as soon as he arrived in New York he went out of his apartment to check out the city and some fans immediately recognized him. He waved enthusiastically and greeted them. Welcome change of face and pace indeed. Since Burnett's departure, I wonder if they still do the shaving cream pie thing. And now with Swish gone, have the smiles and laughter departed with him?
It's good to know he's headed for Cleveland because the good Lord knows they could use some good cheer and a winning season. They did add former Boston manager Terry Francona so they filled in two very important positions on their team.
In essence, this is my thank you to Nick Swisher, who even when I watched back in Oakland, became one of my favorite baseball players. I may bleed Yankee pinstripes but I am also a baseball fan who watches as many games as I can. And yes, when I watch, I stick around until the game is done no matter how long it takes.
Thanks for your four years patrolling right field, Nick. Good luck in Cleveland and as the saying goes, may your Tribe increase. The good vibes are about to begin -- I was about to say the Jake -- at Progressive Field.