Swisher brings Yanks certain je ne sais quoi

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

He's in his seventh year in the majors.

He's in his ninth year playing pro ball.

And he says he still phones his father at home after every game.

"My father will ask 'what are you doing, swinging at a 1-2 pitch in the dirt?'" said New York Yankees, fun-to-watch, fun-to-listen-to, right fielder Nick Swisher.

Nick's father, Steve Swisher, was selected 21st over-all in the first round of 1973 draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Some 29 years later, Nick went in the first round -- five picks earlier -- to the Oakland A's in 2002. After four years with the A's and one season with the White Sox, he arrived in the Bronx in April of 2009 as a fan favorite.

The Yanks opened with a nine-game trip to Baltimore, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Swisher had nine extra-base hits, including four homers, with 11 homers and a .429 average.

Yankee Stadium bleachers fans give the pre-game roll call each night, chanting players' names until they are acknowledged.

Derek Jeter will wave.

Alex Rodriguez will raise his right hand in the air.

There is no telling what Swisher will do.

Turn around and salute?

Bow to the fans?

Emphatically pump his both hands to his side?

"He is," said bench coach Tony Pena, "happy all the time. Everyone loves him. You don't see it in players enough nowadays."

Pena remembers Gary Matthews with the Philadelphia Phillies and Pedro Guerrero of the Los Angeles Dodgers playing with such wild enthusiasm.

They played, as Swisher does, like it's Day 1 in the majors, as if they're not sure they'll never play another game, so why not have fun?

"I like his attitude," said Jays manager Cito Gaston. "I don't know the kid, but I watch him from afar. I saw him during spring training in the outfield dancing, which is usually not what Yankees do."

Swisher wasn't dancing Wednesday night. He was a late scratch after fouling a ball off his left knee in Tuesday's win.

"The guys have got to love him on their team," Gaston said. "He plays hard, hits well, gets on base, plays great outfield, has a good arm. I think he loves playing there."

And he has fun in the clubhouse -- we watched a 10-minute debate with a younger player over who stiffed whom for lunch -- and on the field. Especially on the field. Like school just ended, it's the first day of summer and he and his pals have dibs on the diamond.

"My father is like my best friend now, does he ever ask why I did some things on the field? Nah, my father would never rag on me," Swisher said.

Jorge Posada is asked how Swisher compares to previous teammates, as we're thinking of fun-seeker David Wells.

"We've had a lot of interesting players here over the years," said Posada, who's in his 16th season.

Swisher is third on the Yanks in homers (22) and fourth in RBIS (70). He has a .291 batting average and an .873 OPS.

"After starting in Oakland and spending a year in Chicago, to be able to go and thrive, excel and have the fan support I've had in New York has been amazing," Swisher said. "I had good relationships with the fans in Oakland and Chicago too.

"Playing with guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Posada, you can't help but raise your game. We have a chance to be that next group of Yankees."

Steve Swisher still lives in the Parkersburg, West Va., area and runs a hitting school named School of Dreams, so he knows of what he speaks when he talks hitting with his son, post-game.

Nick Swisher, in a word, is:

"Ebullient," said Yankee broadcaster Suzyn Waldman.

"Oh, you're talking about Nick Swisher?" said broadcast partner John Sterling. His word: "Gregarious."


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