TRENTON – The birds-eye view from the press box at ARM & HAMMER Park provides a solid look into the Thunder home dugout along the first base line. On Thursday night, it was easy to spot an energetic guy bouncing around and encouraging various players all night long. Following an 11-5 victory over Bowie, that same guy was one of the first to trot from the top step out onto the field to join in a colorful row of celebratory victory handshakes.
That guy is Nick Swisher, the former big league all-star and Yankees fan-favorite is now a special adviser to General Manager Brian Cashman. While he no longer finds his name filled into a lineup card these days, Swisher still brings the same contagious energy that has become somewhat of a signature for the former star.
With an unmistakable glow in his face as he addressed the local Trenton media on Thursday night about his new gig, it was clear that Swisher is elated to have the chance to put on the pinstripes again and tutor the next generation of talent before they hit the Bronx.
“I’m here to watch the guys and report back to the boss,” said Swisher. “Having the opportunity to be a special assistant to Brian Cashman is something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Swisher added, “It’s an honor for me to be able to do this. I feel like I am part of the band again; back in the band. When you retire, there is a hole, and to have this opportunity given to me by Cash, it means a lot to me, and I want to make the most of this.”
Over the course of his 12-year career, including four with the Yankees from 2009-2012, Swisher slashed .249/.351/.447. He posted nine consecutive seasons with at least 20 homers from 2005-2013 and was an all-star for the Yankees in 2010 after helping them capture their 27th World Series title in 2009.
At just 37-year of age, Swisher is now embracing the new challenge of learning how to handle players on an individual basis. Always heralded as the model teammate and cheerleader, Swisher now is figuring out how to evaluate from an unfamiliar post.
Swisher is filling a role similar to the one that both Hideki Matsui and Reggie Jackson have served in for quite a while now. The former stars are tasked with the responsibility of traveling to the various minor league affiliates throughout the season to guide the developing players but also send feedback as an extra set of eyes for Cashman. Swisher spent some time in Triple-A Scranton in April and plans on visiting High-A Tampa sometime next month after his visit to Trenton concludes.
“Everybody is different, and that is the thing that I am learning now,” Swisher admitted. “This is a whole different ball game for me; being able to judge talent, being able to help guys. I am just trying to develop relationships with these guys; I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do or how to fix things. I’m just trying to let these guys know that I’m in your corner and if you need any help, I’m here. It is nice because when you do that, and you don’t come in guns blazin’ trying to change everything, they respond to that a lot better.”
Swisher added, “I am also learning the coaching staffs, and I think that is the biggest thing that I have tried to do here. I have listened a lot and learned a lot just by being around these guys; these coaches have been around for a long time. A guy like Jay Bell, he has a World Series trophy, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, all-star games; watching these guys deal with the players is so awesome for me because I am picking up on all of the little things and you learn a little bit from everybody.”
It was just a little bit under two years ago in 2016 when Swisher was grasping at a Yankees comeback by suiting up for Triple-A Scranton before deciding to walk away mid-season when the writing on the wall became clear that a youth movement was going to take precedence over one final stroll down memory lane. Realizing that his love for the organization and the game was too strong, Swisher has found a happy medium to keep him involved and in the pinstripes.
“I think that is the biggest part of all of this,” said Swisher. “Being able to have people help them do things that they never thought they were able to do, I think is probably the coolest part about this job. Being able to come here and put the uniform on again is pretty badass, too.”