Swisher brings love of game to camp
Energetic outfielder excited to get going with White Sox
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Nick Swisher speaks, and one can almost hear the Chicago stardom developing for one of the White Sox newest acquisitions.
The 27-year-old is frenetic, energetic and infinitely entertaining. Judging from his first appearance at the Kino Sports Complex as part of the White Sox, where he spent time chatting with Jim Thome before heading to the back fields to work out, Swisher also seems to be the outstanding clubhouse fit projected by general manager Ken Williams when he pried him away from Oakland for three top prospects.
"I'm a guy, as you can tell, I'm pretty shy. It's tough for me to speak to people," said Swisher, having a little fun with his own wild persona during a Tuesday conversation with the media.
"That's one of the main reasons we did what we did," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Swisher. "We need people like that. He's a guy that's going to bring a great attitude and bring back the fun."
During SoxFest, which took place over a frigid Chicago weekend at the end of January in the Palmer House Hilton, Guillen mentioned how he used to hate Swisher when he played against the White Sox. Guillen reiterated that point following Tuesday's workout, with a bit of a caveat to his explanation.
Guillen's hatred had nothing to do with Swisher's style of play or his competitive bravado often times coming forth in the heat of the moment. There was another reason for dislike.
"Because he was good," said Guillen with a laugh. "I like the cockiness, and I think we're missing that. We need people with a little flavor on the ballclub.
"This kid goes out there and enjoys the game. He wants to win and he wants to beat people. When you're good, I think you have a tendency to hate the guy when he plays against you.
"Everything he did was pretty good against us," added Guillen. "The cockiness that he showed people, you look at him after they scored a run, look in the dugout shaking people's hands in a different way."
"Getting mean" has served as a Guillen catch phrase from the first handful of Spring Training days after pitchers and catchers reported. Even Thome, one of the nicest and most respected players in the game, was asked about his mean streak upon his arrival Monday.
In reality, that nasty edge spoken of by Guillen translates into the aforementioned description he provided of Swisher. It's playing with an edge, as opposed to simply being angry.
"Why do you gotta say it like that?" asked Swisher with a broad smile on his face, after a reporter inquired if he had that mean swagger Guillen sought. "Nah, man, I love playing the game, and if it comes off like that ... Hey, some people look at it like that.
"I don't mean to be like that. I'm just out there having fun. This is the only thing I've ever wanted to do. When you get to that point, you want to soak it up for everything it's worth.
"For me, I go out and play the game hard, bring some intensity," Swisher added. "I'm not going to come over here and change the way I play the game. I'm coming over here and doing the things I've been doing so I can get better year in and year out."
Along with the personality that is Swisher comes a pretty skilled player. He knocked out 78 home runs over the past three years in Oakland, a number that figures to rise with 81 games at U.S. Cellular Field. Swisher also has a career .361 on-base percentage, an area of offensive improvement targeted by the White Sox during this past offseason.
Factor in the $24.55 million Swisher is owed contractually over the next four years, and with all due respect to top talents such as Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand and Kosuke Fukudome, the switch-hitter just might be the best fit for the White Sox needs.
On Tuesday, Swisher talked about dealing with the first trade of his career shortly after buying a house in Oakland, which is now being rented by former teammate Eric Chavez. He joked with reporters about the black uniform top being slimming, although he said the pinstripes also will help out.
Most importantly, Swisher clearly wants to be part of the White Sox lineup and make an impact within the organization and within the city of Chicago.
"It's going to be great," Swisher said. "Just from meeting guys, everyone has been super nice so far. Chicago is a great town. My old man [Steve] played with the Cubs for all those years and told me about Chicago and what a great town it is. It really is. I've had the chance to go there a few times and, I don't know man, it's like I'm getting giddy, like a little school kid."
"When Kenny makes a move, when Kenny brings somebody to this ballclub, if it be a free agent or trade, Kenny is looking at the total package," Guillen added. "Obviously, it's real important what he does on the field. But I think he will fit in the clubhouse and get it going and whatever we need. This kid can make a difference on this ballclub."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.