SSTN Interviews Former Yankee Nick Swisher
Today we are here with former Major Leaguer Nick Swisher. Swisher was a member of the Yankees 2009 World Series Championship team where he played a crucial role throughout the entire season as the team’s starting right-fielder. In addition to the Yankees (2009-2012, 2016), he also played for the Oakland Athletics (2004-2007), Chicago White Sox (2008), Cleveland Indians (2013-2015), and Atlanta Braves (2015). He was an All-Star and competed in the Home Run Derby in 2010. He is on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this upcoming year.
Nick Swisher has always been a favorite among Yankees fans because of his heart and passion for the game of baseball. Whenever Swisher stepped out on the field, you knew he would give it his all until the final pitch – and do it all with a smile on his face. He altered the Yankees clubhouse in 2009 by bringing high energy and loud hip-hop music. This brought needed energy to the ballclub. Swisher was known for being a team-first player and made the most of his 13-year career in the big leagues.
When I was in little league, I can remember wearing #33 and trying to imitate Swisher’s relaxed approach at the plate. He was someone I really looked up to as a player because he showed everyone that baseball can be fun, even in one of the most demanding markets in Major League Baseball.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Swisher about his playing days and time in pinstripes. When talking to him, I could immediately tell how passionate he still is for the Yankees. I could see it in his smiling face throughout my time with him. He is exactly the person you’d think he is. He was authentic, passionate, and high-energy, exactly the way he was during his playing days.
Here is my interview!
When did your passion for baseball start and when did you realize that you could play baseball at the highest level?
For your first question, six- years-old. I was in Waterloo, Iowa. My dad was managing for the Waterloo Iowa Indians. I think Single-A for the Cleveland Indians at the time. It was the first summer that I spent with my father. It was just me and my dad and I went everywhere. I was on the team bus, I slept on top of the bat rack, and I was everywhere because it was just me and my dad. I truly learned that I loved the game of baseball. When I think of even playing Major League Baseball, it takes me back to that locker room where I’d find a roll of ankle tape, tape it up into a ball, and be hitting it with the broomstick that I had “accidentally” broke in the locker room. So, I was six-years-old doing that bro. I was collecting aluminum cans in the stands after the game because that’s what I did to buy my first baseball mitt. So, for me, the love for the game came when I was six-years-old.
When I realized that I had a chance to do something special might have been my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t play in Florida, Texas, or California. I played in West Virginia, not exactly the baseball Mecca of the world, but I do remember being a sophomore in high school and being like wow, bro. I can hang with all of these guys and there’s nobody in here that I can’t hang with. That for me was a building block. That was the moment right then and there I was like, alright bro, it’s time to go all-in on baseball because I loved football. That was my favorite. That was my first sport and was my true love.
I loved it. The action, just overall aggression deep down. I’m a meathead. I want to yell and scream and like lift weights and like the whole nine, right? So, to be able to do that on the football field was absolutely amazing because regardless of how I was feeling it was emotional. I could let all my emotions go. I went on my first recruiting trip to West Virginia University for a football game and saw the size of those dudes in the locker room and it was like nope. Well, this baseball thing is looking real good right now man, so that right then and there was kind of the turning point for me. And then from there, I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve always had a great work ethic and I think that is kind of one of those things that I would try to drill in everybody’s head. There’s a lot of people in this world that want to do something special. There’s a lot of people in this world that have dreams and goals. The thing that I think most people don’t realize is how much work it really takes to achieve those dreams and goals. For somebody like me, from being in the minor leagues for however many years in my life watching these guys who were supposedly the best prospects in the organization not make the big leagues. I knew that I had to put the work in because if I was going to do what I needed to do then I had to be one of the best, right? And so, for myself, work ethic has always been a huge part of my life.
Listen, I’ve got two daughters. We’ve got Barbie Dolls and stuff all over the place, right? So, like my oldest daughter’s an equestrian. She’s our horse rider. So those are my competitions, right? Those are the Saturday mornings I’m up at 5 a.m. I got the music going, we’re pumping it up, we’re getting ready, and once we get to the horse then everything’s like calm and quiet now. I’m like bro, this is so opposite of what I’m used to.
I fell in love with the game when I was six and I think I really found out that I had a chance to do something special around my sophomore year in high school.
So, you get to the MLB, you have success and then after the 2008 season there’s a turning point and you get a call from the man, Brian Cashman…
The man, bro! Love that guy! Matter of fact, He just called me. I gotta call him back after you.
Tell him I said hello.
I will bro!
So, you get the call from him after 2008. What does that do for your confidence as a player after that 2008 season? I mean, you’re getting a call from the Yankees. Also, was there any pressure going into a locker room with Yankee legends?
Hundred percent. Easily, bro. 2008 was one of the worst years of my life, on the field, off the field, all over. It was just a bad year. Statistically, I was horrible. I felt like my attitude was horrible that year and it was just a down year. I was really down on myself.
I took one day off that offseason and got back to work because I knew that I had to make some drastic changes if I wanted to stay in the big leagues. So then from there, I had some issues with Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams, the General Manager at the time and then Kenny calls me up and asked me if I want to continue to be part of the organization moving forward. I did not. I ask to be traded. Three days later Brian Cashman calls me.
What a change of events, right? And he’s calling me saying hey, you know Nick, we know last year was a really rough year for you, but we know you’ve got more in you. Our stats say that you’re this much better of a player than you were last year. You just ran into bad luck all year long and I was like, okay because you know, listen, analytics weren’t a huge part of the game at that point.
So then from there, he was like, but we believe in you. I’ll never forget that because that was a huge moment in my life and a turning point. When you have somebody, hell, it doesn’t matter how much stature they have or how famous they are or whatever. Anybody in life that believes in you can take you to another level. And for me, it took me from some of the darkest days of my life. Now all of the sudden I’m like, are you kidding me, bro. I’m playing with the New York Yankees, like what just happened, right?
Then from there, I showed up to spring training ready and jacked dude because I knew that this was my chance. And bro, don’t get me wrong man. You just listed them off. Posada, Jeter, Mariano, A-Rod, and Pettitte. I mean come on dude, like all these dudes in the locker room?
And so, for me, I didn’t necessarily feel like there was pressure. I just put pressure on myself because I wanted to be part of that team, right? I wanted to be on the field with those guys and I got that opportunity like three days into the season and I got my first start. I think I went three-for-five, clipped two of them bro, and drove in five. It was like a dream sort of game and then from there, it was just kind of a snowball, right?
It was kind of like I always had Lou Gehrig and Wally Pipp on my mind. Pipp was like, nah, let somebody else play. And Gehrig showed up and never left. That’s exactly kind of what I did for four seasons bro, and to be able to experience all of what New York has to offer like the relationship that I have with the fans. Those are the people that I connect with. Somebody once told me, “Swish if they fall in love with you, you’ll never leave”, and they were right. And it happened. Both sides fell in love and I only left for a brief moment, but I’m back and I don’t think I’m ever gonna leave. I think I’m gonna be here for a while now.
I think the way you handled the pressure of playing in New York and how you went about it is the only way that you can have success playing here.
I mean if you think about it, I had Xavier Nady starting in front of me. I mean, he hit .290, 29, and drove in like 105 the year before. Like I’m going in it and I’m thinking to myself, I got to beat this guy out? There’s no way, right? But then I got an opportunity. There was an injury, as a matter of fact, “X” hurt his arm, and then that was my spot. That was my chance and you know, bro, I’m one of those guys that I understand opportunities come very, very rare. They’re very rare in life and when you get those opportunities homie, you got to take them like, full. Not like two feet in, but like two feet in times your whole body. That’s what I did. I just went for it.
Whether it’s scary or not or it looks like it’s too hard to accomplish. Just go for it. Sometimes, just take the chance on yourself because at the end of the day bro, if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will believe in you.
What you just said is awesome because you can apply that mindset to anything other than just baseball. After you joined the Yankees, you find yourself on one of the greatest teams in Yankee history and you win the World Series. What is the best part about winning the World Series?
It’s the ultimate team goal. Yeah, right, there have been Champions.
There have been individual champions. Being a team champion is something that I hold near and dear to my heart because bro, I’m a teammate man. I’m a locker room guy. I know how all that works. I love the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the overall just family. So, I think for me being able to achieve the ultimate goal with dudes from all over the planet and all different nationalities, it’s special. We did it together and I’ll be called a champion for the rest of my life. As cheesy as that may sound, you can never take that away for me.
But I think for myself, achieving it with all my brothers and being able to experience the game for 13 Seasons. It’s just like, come on man. Like me? Bro, I was just a little punk from West Virginia, and I got to ride this amazing rollercoaster. I just could not be more grateful for that opportunity because it could have easily been somebody else.
You talked about how you left the organization for a little bit, but then you came back. You came back as a player, not in the position you’re currently in. Can you tell me what the motivation was behind coming back to the Yankees as a player in 2016 and what were your biggest takeaways from those 55 games back in the minors?
What was my goal? To run out to right field one more time. Just one more time. That was it and I never got that. It would have been explosive dog the place would have exploded. So that was my goal and it never happened. I never got the chance to do it again.
The thing for me that I had to come to grips with was I think my career is ending and it’s a very hard thing to take in. Because bro, I’m a gamer. I loved the game dude, and I felt like I could still go out and do it. My body said otherwise but deep down inside I felt like I could do it.
Then all of a sudden guess what happened? I became a big brother to people like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and the Baby Bombers. All these young guys that came up and made a splash in the big leagues, right? Like we’re the Baby Bombers and so for me to be able to have a relationship with those guys means the world to me. I continue to keep those relationships strong, but I think for me, I’m looking around and I’m like damn bro. I’m the old guy in the locker room now. I’m “that” guy now. So, I think for me, I wanted to utilize that as much as I could to try and be the best leader I could for those guys and to help them moving forward.
I always thought you never want to burn any bridges in this world with anybody. You always want to try to maintain relationships and gain a great community because I have aspirations to be a manager at some point. What if these dudes are playing for me at some point, right? Like at the end of the day? You never know. I’ve always tried to kind of plan my future and have an idea of what I’m doing moving forward because I’m such a routine-based guy. I always have goals and bro, and I don’t like not reaching my goals. So, for me, I have a plan of what I’m trying to do in my life, and to be able to learn from that next generation coming up has helped me so much.
It helps me even more, being a Special Advisor to Cashman now. Now, I know how to relate to those guys. I know what those guys are like. Aaron Judge is “the guy” in that locker room now. To be able to still have those relationships with guys like that man means the world to me.
Going off what you just said about your relationship with the younger players and your role as a special advisor to the Yankees, Yankee fans understand that there are special advisors on the Yankees. However, I guess we don’t understand sometimes what those roles mean and what special advisors are doing daily. I was wondering if you could talk about that role a little bit.
Sure. I think if you looked at the special advisers we have, I think it’s just me and a bunch of Hall of Famers.
At the end of the day, building an organization is about putting a puzzle together and finding the pieces. For somebody like me, it just goes to show you there’s something to be said for being a good person.
There’s something to be said for doing things the right way and being somebody that people can count on. Just being your true self and for myself, that’s what I’m doing even to this point now. To be able to kind of have carte blanche ability in the organization, to travel where I want to travel, see the guys that I want to see, and spread the love everywhere I go, it’s special.
For a guy like me when I show up, it’s a party for three- or four-days man. We’re going to get after it dude. The locker room is going to be buzzing. We’re going to get after it and for myself to be able to go around and throw that energy around has been amazing.
So much love goes out to people like Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner for just believing in me and knowing that I will do the right thing. I will live the Yankee life. I will be the ambassador that they want me to be for the organization and for the NY logo. There have been a lot of people who haven’t taken to heart being a Yankee. In my mind, it’s hard to find somebody who loved being a Yankee more than I did.
For sure. I definitely don’t think anyone enjoyed being a Yankee more than you. You said you think you’re the only guy who’s a special advisor not in the Hall of Fame. However, the other day the news breaks that you will be on the ballot this year…
How about that bro?! What?!
No matter what happens, talk to me a little bit about what it means just to be on that ballot with baseball legends and to have your name in the same conversation as Hall of Famers.
Wow. Honor, Gratitude, and how thankful I am, come to mind. At the end of the day, my career is dead and gone. It’s over. I’m not coming back. I know that, but I guess to be recognized by fans, writers, peers, and all the love that has come forward through all that, for somebody like me man, that means the world to me. I’ll never forget this for the rest of my life. There may be somebody that’s like, “Yeah I was on the ballot but no big deal”, but for me it’s different. It means something more to me because bro, I know I’m not a Hall of Fame player. I know that.
But once again, there has to be something said about doing things with a smile on your face, and dude, I’m on the Hall of Fame ballot! You know what I’m saying? This is stuff you dream about when you’re six or seven years old. I guess at the end of the day, nobody can ever take this away from me. You’ll never be able to take that away.
To be able to be a World Series champion, be on the ballot, try and be a leader and a bright light in this world, that’s what I’m trying to do right now.
For sure man. There’s nobody else more deserving than you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your time as a Yankee. This has been an experience I’ll never forget, and I couldn’t be more appreciative that you took the time to speak with me.
No problem brother! I’m so happy we got the chance to make this happen and if you need anything going forward, hit me up bro