NEW YORK — A group of veteran New York reporters still can’t quite believe the 2013 fiscal reality in Major League Baseball.
Nick Swisher, a perfectly useful corner outfielder for the New York Yankees, left without an offer. And the lack of replacements brought in by the once carefree spenders meant that Lyle Overbay, who last played right field in the low minors in 1999, was Monday night’s Yankee starter at the position.
So it was left to Swisher himself, back in town with the Cleveland Indians, to act as motivational speaker and therapist to the group of reporters who gathered around him hours before gametime. The gaggle moved from the dugout when the skies opened to a spot just inside the tunnel. A makeshift backdrop was hung on a concrete wall.
And a few minutes later, Swisher bounded over, his seemingly limitless energy untainted by the task of coming back to face a team who decided he was surplus to needs. Swisher never stops smiling, relentlessly stays on message, right down to the blue “Bro-Hio” t-shirt he sported. His interviews sound like Tony Robbins and Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski had a child.
“Let’s hit it, guys!” Swisher exclaimed.
“This is great, man. I’ve just got a lot of smiles going on today, man. Got to see a lot of people I haven’t seen, being down to the city, I haven’t been down there in a while, just that atmosphere is a great thing to be a part of, and super excited to be back here for a couple days.”
“Great” peppered every answer. It was great to have been a Yankee. Andy Pettitte was great. Facing him was great too.
That slight laugh in his response when I asked if he had any advice for Overbay, occupying the right field he patrolled for the Yankees for years, would have seemed mocking perhaps, if he didn’t giggle the same way as he answered the facing Pettitte question.
“Just enjoy it, man,” Swisher responded, addressing Overbay directly in his answer. “It’s a great place to be, bro. Just enjoy every second.” It’s not clear Swisher’s public advice would differ from this, no matter the person or situation.
Swisher loves fatherhood, loves the town of Cleveland. The Indians’ organization is great. A chance to go to the postseason with the Indians? Awesome, naturally. Being one of the frontline stars for the Indians is both “awesome” and “pretty cool.”
Ah, but what about the difficult reception Swisher received last fall from fans, when he struggled in the postseason? Back then, it wasn’t awesome. It was “really tough.” But Swisher didn’t even let a reporter get that question out.
“Oh, man? Live in the now, bro! You’re just trying to stir it up again,” Swisher said, and he was smiling, but his words weren’t. “That was something that happened so long ago, you know, I thought we kind of handled that, kind of squashed that as-is, but to put it in that terms… are you asking me am I nervous about it?”
The reporter said he was. And Swisher was back on familiar ground, projecting limitless excitement about the future.
“I’m looking forward to it, bro! I think it’s gonna be awesome! It’s one of the greatest places I got the opportunity to play. And I know Bald Vinny and them creatures are gonna be out there tonight. I look forward to seeing all of them.”
Swisher was acknowledged twice, once by the Bleacher Creatures when he took his position at first base. And even Overbay saluted the crowd, a move once created by Swisher himself.
When Swisher came to the plate, the cheers far outnumbered the boos. Swisher stepped out, took the moment in. It was a great place to be. And Nick Swisher was enjoying every second.