On his first day in the major leagues, Dansby Swanson answered questions from TV, radio and then print media for nearly a half-hour Wednesday afternoon, more polished and professional than just about any 22-year-old could possibly be on the biggest day of his life.
But when it came to a question about his parents and how much they had done for him over the years, the former Marietta High School star and Vanderbilt All-American paused, put his head down and nearly broke down as he briefly fought back tears.
“I can’t even say it, really,” Swanson said, momentarily looking away from the cameras and reporters’ microphones. “I mean, they’ve” – he paused again before saying quietly) done a lot.”
His parents, Nancy and Cooter, were coming to Turner Field on Wednesday night along with many thousands of Braves fans who’d been waiting for this moment since the December day when the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair and the guy the Braves wanted most of all, Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft.
Swanson was in the lineup at shortstop, as general manager John Coppolella said would be the case upon announcing the call-up Tuesday night. Braves manager Brian Snitker met with Swanson — the first to arrive in the Braves clubhouse — on Wednesday morning and penciled him in the No. 8 spot in the lineup for his debut.
“It’s like I told him, I’m excited to watch him play,” Snitker said before batting practice Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity for him. Biggest thing I think we talked about was just wanting him to be himself. Don’t expect him to come in here and be some kind of savior and turn the season upside down. It’s a great opportunity for him to start his major league career, and then we’ll see what he’s got.
“We sat in there today – 11:30, we’re the only two guys in the clubhouse, and we sat in my office and talked for a half-hour. And it’s really enjoyable conversation. He’s a very well-grounded kid, very intelligent. He gets it. And I think everything we all saw in spring training, the intangibles are just dripping off this young man. Not to mention his athletic ability and abilities as a baseball player. It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to see him go.”
Swanson rounded up 17 tickets for his family and friends and might’ve filled hundreds more ticket requests if there was any way he could have on such short notice. He was notified by Double-A Mississippi manager Luis Salazar early Tuesday evening that he’d been promoted – not to Triple-A, where Swanson hasn’t played any of his 127 minor league games. No, to The Show.
And a few hours later he was headed down the highway from Pearl, Miss., in his truck, going home to his parents’ house in Marietta for a few hours of sleep. Once the story broke on Twitter that he’d been called up to the majors, Swanson said had so many calls and texts that he finally had to turn off the phone so he could listen to his music and think.
He got to the house at about 2:30 a.m.
“My mom said the dog was the alarm,” he said. “We’ve got this little pit bull mix at home and she started barking when I got in the house. Dad was on the couch; we were talking on the phone on my way home and he said, it feels like prom night sitting up waiting for you to get back…. My mom woke up. Hugs and kisses, and we sat on the couch talking for 30 minutes or so, just about everything, really. Then I went to bed. Well, laid in bed, really.”
He couldn’t sleep much, so anxious to get his career started. Not that it was an entirely unique experience for him. “Vandy is a tough school — plenty of sleepless nights studying,” he said, smiling.
He added, “I slept at my parents’ house last night. I don’t know how many people have done that before a major league debut. I’m sure it’s a small list. It’s just funny, leaving the house, like I was going to work for the first day. Take a picture, first day of school. But it was fun. Pretty surreal.”
He woke early and drove down I-75 to Turner Field, the ballpark where Swanson attended games as a young die-hard Braves fan. “Every time I came to a game, Chipper hit a home run,” he said. “That happened, like, five different times. It was pretty spectacular.”
The best part of the pre-game experience Wednesday?
“Honestly, driving up to the stadium,” he said. “Seeing my name and number on my jersey was pretty neat, but initially driving up the stadium was surreal. Just because I’m driving up to play in a game, not to watch, not to do FanFest, but to actually play in the major leagues.”
He was issued No. 2 – “I didn’t pick it, but my sister said, ‘Well, it looks close enough to 7’ (his usual number),” Swanson said.
Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who knows plenty about being a first-round draft pick and former high school star playing for the hometown Braves, said he saw Swanson’s phone Wednesday and that there were about 250 texts that he’d not even had time to answer.
Swanson felt bad that he’d not had a chance to return all the texts and Tweets he’d received since last night.
“Just seeing people that I was friends with, just seeing how many people actually care and are genuinely happy for you that you’ve reached your life-long dream, it just continues to, like, amaze me,” he said. “It’s just so neat when people genuinely care about you, and that list just keeps growing and growing, and the more you see people take their time and energy from their day to put towards you, it kind of gets you a little emotional.”