Dansby Swanson signing brightens holidays

Dansby Swanson speaks at his introduction after signing with the Chicago Cubs. (Chicago Cubs photo)

The title of this blog is “The Hot Stove,” and this is why: Winter trades heat up the sport of baseball. Cubs fans got an early Christmas present when All-Star and World Series champion shortstop Dansby Swanson signed with Chicago as a free agent.

For Swanson, it’s his third organization after the Georgia native was traded to Atlanta while still in the minor leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He actually was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2012 MLB Draft but decided to honor his commitment to play baseball at Vanderbilt. That was a smart decision. Arizona took him No. 1 in 2015 with a signing bonus of $6.5 million.

Swanson made his Major League Baseball debut in Atlanta in August 2016 and became a 2021 World Series winner, 2022 All-Star and 2022 Gold Glove winner. Before arriving in Atlanta, he made appearances at Smokies Stadium with the Mississippi Braves in Double-A baseball. His talent was easy to see, and anyone watching knew Swanson would not spend much time in the minors.

He also was great with the fans and would sign autographs before and after games. A lot but by no mean all first round picks will do so. Swanson fell in the category of very willing to sign, pose for photos and engage fans. He also has the best hair in baseball (still), as my 2016 Twitter post from Smokies Stadium can attest.

That can be one of the best parts of attending Minor League Baseball games – seeing the top prospects for the Cubs and the other teams that come through Smokies Stadium. Add cold beer, ballpark food, ice cream in a helmet, foul balls and fireworks, and it’s the perfect way to spend a summer evening.

Also, if big leaguers have a rehab assignment when coming back from an injury or mishap, Double-A is a common destination. If Swanson is in need of such in 2023 – and the desired outcome is he won’t be – let it be a minor issue with an assignment to play a couple of games for the Smokies.

When Swanson first arrived in the big leagues, he struggled, which is not uncommon. What he did was seek help, and he talked about it, along with mental health, when he arrived in Chicago. He also discussed outreach to underserved communities for mental health awareness and assistance as can be seen in the video on Twitter.

Dansby, a native of Kennesaw, would have welcomed being a Brave for life in Georgia. But finances, free agency and a baseball team’s long-terms plans don’t always align, so the Cubs made a move and got a gem at shortstop with five tools – hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing. In December, Swanson finalized a $177 million, seven-year contract with Chicago.

During his press conference, Swanson couldn’t look at his parents, because he knew he would cry. His parents and grandfather lived on the same street. On Dec. 10, Swanson married Mallory Pugh, who plays soccer for the Chicago Red Stars. The next morning, the couple learned that Swanson’s paternal grandfather, Herb Swanson, was in decline at a senior living facility and drove home to see him. He died that same day. His grandfather, who hit thousands of ground balls to his grandson over the years, watched two teams when Swanson was a boy, the Braves and the Cubs.

“He loved baseball so much and all he ever wanted me to (do) was doing what I’m doing now,” Swanson said in a story that can be read HERE and watched on the video clip below.

As a lifelong Braves fan, losing Swanson was tough to see, especially one year after Freddie Freeman left in free agency for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But as a longtime Smokies season ticket holder who enjoys watching the Cubs farmhands and has a closet full of game-worn jerseys won at auction with Cubs and Smokies logos, I am happy for Chicago.

Hopefully, Swanson never needs a rehab assignment in the minors after an injury. But if he ever does, please send him to Smokies Stadium.

Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor for Moxley Carmichael, is a lifelong baseball fan and longtime Smokies season ticket holder.