When the Oakland Athletics drafted Ohio State's OF/1B Nick Swisher in the first round of the 2002 draft, they had big hopes. A's GM Billy Beane loved his on-base percentage while the old-time scouts marveled over his power from both sides of the plate. Swisher rose quickly through the minors and became a full-time major leaguer in 2005. He immediately became a fan favorite, not only for his play but for his irrepressible personality and charity work.
As time went on, however, the personality began to overshadow the play. Not that his play was bad, but when the media mentioned him it was about his long hair (grown to be cut for cancer patients' wigs in memory of his grandmother) or his partying or his dancing with Milton Bradley in the dugout. His exuberance was not always welcomed by his teammates either. Former teammate Tim Hudson once remarked that Swisher acted "big league, and that's not a compliment."
In 2008 Swisher, who'd signed a five-year contract with the A's the previous spring, was traded to the Chicago White Sox. As he did in Oakland he quickly endeared himself to White Sox fans, dubbing himself "Dirty 30," making the media rounds and promising to help his new team to the World Series. Instead, he had by far his worst season, batting .219, the lowest average of an everyday player in MLB. He also clashed with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, himself hardly shy and retiring, who benched Swisher for much of the last part of the season. "I have to put the best lineup out there to win the game," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "To me, the best lineup right now is without (Swisher)."
It was no surprise that the White Sox quickly got rid of Swisher after his disastrous 2008 season. Where he ended up, though, was. The staid, traditional New York Yankees seemed like the absolute worst team for a player known for his nutty facial hairstyles and general rampaging through life. But in this young season Swisher is rising to the challenge. The New York media loves him, his new teammates speak highly of him and despite not being an everyday player is making a strong case for himself to be one. He is batting a scorching .538 with two homers and nine RBI, by far his strongest MLB start.
Swisher is 28 now, in his prime as a player. He also seems to have gained some personal maturity, no doubt due to his horrible season in Chicago. He's still Swish, with his loud music and great quotes, but he's also more thoughtful, more concentrated on his play, and it's showing on the field. He's grown up, and it will be to the Yankees' benefit.