Born in Columbus, Ohio to Lillian and Steve Swisher, and growing up in both Ohio and West Virginia, no one questioned that Nick had baseball flowing in his veins. He certainly had the pedigree as his father Steve was a former major league catcher who played 8 seasons, including a 1976 All-Star campaign. The gift for the game was passed down to Nick who had a stellar high school career at Parkersburg High School. Next he went on to play at Ohio State University where his success followed him. He made his presence felt on campus immediately, bringing home the Big 10 freshman of the year award in 1999 and earning all Big 10 honors in his sophomore and junior years.
Scouts took notice and that’s when the A’s came calling. Nick was chosen with the 16th overall pick in the talent-laden 2002 amateur draft. He jumped into the minor league system and finished out the 2002 season by hitting 13 homers in just 49 games with the A’s single A affiliate.
In 2003, he split time between single and double A honing his batting eye. Then in 2004, Nick put it all together with the Sacramento River Cats where he torched the Pacific Coast League to the tune of 29 home runs, 109 runs scored and 92 RBI in only 129 games. His time was coming.
His success in Sacramento was closely watched by the big club and it earned Nick a September call-up in 2004. Since then, he’s never looked back. His first official at-bat came against then Toronto Blue Jay pitcher Ted Lilly on September 3rd. Despite the nerves that come with stepping into a major league batter’s box for the first time, especially on a team battling for the playoffs, Nick wasn’t overmatched. He worked a walk. Later in the game, he’d get his first major hit under his belt as he blasted a double. Most importantly to Nick, the A’s won the game.
To the Bigs
Heading into the offseason, it appeared as though a chance to break into the A’s everyday lineup was a real possibility. He worked as hard as he’s ever worked and came into training camp ready to compete to be the A’s everyday right fielder. He delivered a strong performance and won the starting job. Everything was going according to plan. But as with every rookie year, there were ups and downs. He came out of the gate slowly in May. Then with al little experience under his belt, he hit full stride showing signs of the patient hitter and flashing some of that immense power potential that the A’s were counting on when they drafted him. He raised his average over 50 points in June and July. He finished 7th in the American League rookie of the year voting and tied for the homerun lead among rookies in the AL with 21. Just for the record, that’s one more than his dad Steve had in his entire 8 year career.
Knowing what a full year of baseball at the highest level could do to your body and determined to build on his 21 homers, Nick worked out even harder than before. His dedication paid off as he followed up his strong rookie campaign in 2005 by taking it to another level. In his sophomore year, Nick crushed 35 homers which were good for 8th in the American League. He also filled up the rest of the stat sheet by finishing top 10 in runs scored (106), walks (97) and games played (157), all while improving his batting average 18 points. Having that kind of success, while not unfamiliar to Nick, isn’t going to stop him from doing everything he can to get even better.
He also got a taste of the playoffs in 2006, helping to lead the A’s to a first round sweep of the Minnesota Twins. As Nick wrote in his ESPN Sophomore Season entry, regular season baseball is fun but the playoffs are where the legends are made.
“When I was a kid I dreamed of winning playoff games and playing on teams that were as fun as this one. But no matter how big I dreamed, it doesn’t come close to touching what it feels like to win a playoff series. There are so many great players who never got a chance to make the playoffs let alone win in the playoffs and I’m humbled and honored that I’m living in this moment.”
He finished the 2007 season hitting .262 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI in his third full season in the Majors, the second consecutive season he improved his batting average and he added 100 walks for a .381 on base percentage, which also improved for the second consecutive season. In May 2007 he signed a 5 year contract extension with the Oakland A’s and on January 3, 2008 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
His first and only season with the White Sox was arguably Nick’s most challenging. In his fourth season, he carried his signature power, finishing with 24 homers. He also proved to be the versatile player that all teams crave. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen used Swisher almost equally at 1B and in the OF. He also batted him up and down the order. To top it off, Nick was never able to get comfortable at the plate and struggled with his average. There were certainly some highlights from the 2008 season that Nick can build on. He scored 86 runs, the 2nd highest of his career and kept his top-notch batting eye, finishing 8th in the American League in walks. Of course, a huge highlight was that Nick got to once again take part in post season play.
On November 13, 2008, Nick was traded to the New York Yankees. “I’ve been blessed to be put in such a wonderful situation to be over here with the Yankees. I’m just really, really excited to learn from these guys and to be part of it all,” said Swisher.
Nick’s hard work in the off season paid off as he put together one of his best seasons and helped the Yankees win their 27th World Series. Once again Nick played a variety of positions and roles within the organization including a brief stint as a relief pitcher. As a Yankees Nick has quickly become a fan favorite due to his hard work, big plays and the now famous Swish Salute.
Off the field
Nick is almost just as active off the field as he is on it. From a charitable point of view, Nick Swisher is more than just a typical baseball player. He strives to give back as much or more than he’s been given.
While with the Athletics, he was active in the Oakland community with a number of different charitable organizations. He introduced The Nick Swisher Foundation’s “Swish’s Wishes” and former teammate Barry Zito’s Strikeouts for Troops. He also served as an ambassador for the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), and has worked with the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Special Olympics and recently donated his hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program in support of cancer patients.
In 2008, he continued his community focus in Chicago hosting several Swish’s Wishes days for sick children, dyed his goatee pink to raise the profile of the fight against breast cancer, and invited and paid for 8 year old cancer survivor Adam Bender and his family to travel from Kentucky to Chicago offering hope and inspiration to all while celebrating the first anniversary of Swish’s Wishes.
Nick’s off field activities go beyond charity as well. He has over 1.2 million followers on Twitter, he has chronicled his season for ESPN.com in a segment called “Swish’s Sophomore Year,” he hosted weekly pre-game TV show of which he won an Emmy for his work on “Swisher Unscripted,” he has had a weekly national radio appearance on Fox Sports Radio in 2008 was heard weekly on THE SCORE and seen on “Swish on Sox” Comcast Sports Net, Chicago. In addition, he is often heard on ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and recently had a cameo on the CBS show “How I Met Your Mother.”
And yes, he’s the same Nick Swisher that was made famous before he ever put on a major league uniform. He was one of the featured players covered in Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball which followed the Oakland A’s through the 2002 season, including the 2002 amateur draft. Being the focus of this critically acclaimed book was an amazing experience but it didn’t come without its burden. Nick’s game was viewed through a microscope because his development was so critical to the A’s future success. Luckily, Nick was up for the challenge and the A’s bet on someone who hates losing. The early returns have been stellar for all parties. That shouldn’t be a surprise though; Nick’s wanted to do this since he was old enough to start hacking at a tee-ball set up in his backyard.