Swanson makes big league debut for hometown Braves
ATLANTA (AP) Shortstop Dansby Swanson, born and raised in the north Atlanta suburbs, had a big dream come true Wednesday night.
''That's the only way you can really sum it up,'' he said. ''Playing for your hometown team and basically going out there and doing what you've worked your whole life for is pretty special.''
Swanson, the Braves' top prospect and the No. 1 overall draft pick of 2015, had his contract selected from Double-A Mississippi and went 2 for 4 batting eighth in his debut.
It came in another lackluster effort by the Braves - a 10-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins in a matchup of the two worst teams in the majors.
But the sparse crowd at Turner Field, not unusual this season for a team that dropped to 18-41 at home, gave Swanson loud cheers before and during the game. He walked up to his first at-bat with Ludacris' ''Georgia'' playing over the speakers and received a standing ovation before lining out in the second inning.
The 22-year-old Swanson met with family and friends before the game and loved hearing a group of them cheer from their seats about 30 rows up from home plate.
''They're nuts, I know,'' Swanson said. ''It was great to hear that. It means a lot to me. I love every single one of them and I'm just glad they were able to be a part of it.''
Next year figures to be just as special. Swanson's family home will be even closer as the Braves move into a new ballpark in Marietta, just a few miles from his former high school.
The Braves made it 2-2 in the third on Freddie Freeman's 24th homer. Other than that two-run shot, the focus was on Swanson, who singled in the fourth, struck out in the seventh and singled in the ninth.
Swanson was running on adrenaline and excitement before the game.
After a six-hour drive from Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday night, he arrived at his parents' home in Marietta at 2 a.m. He got about four hours of sleep, took a ''surreal drive'' to Turner Field and was the first player to arrive in the clubhouse around 11 a.m., spending 30 minutes talking with Brian Snitker in the interim manager's office.
''He's a very well-grounded kid, very intelligent,'' Snitker said before the game. ''He gets it. The intangibles are just dripping off this young man, not to mention his athletic abilities as a baseball player.''
Atlanta created a spot on the 25-man roster for Swanson after trading shortstop Erick Aybar to Detroit on Tuesday night and designating Mike Aviles, the utility man acquired in the deal, for assignment.
Swanson was eager to get on the field and prove that he belongs in the big leagues. He was the first No. 1 overall pick to debut in the season following his draft year since Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg in 2009.
Expectations have been predictably high since last December, when the Braves traded pitcher Shelby Miller and minor leaguer Gabe Speier to Arizona for Swanson, center fielder Ender Inciarte and pitcher Aaron Blair.
Swanson was projected to fill a big spot at his position after Atlanta traded away Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons the month before.
''Pressure is kind of something that comes about when I guess you don't believe in yourself as much, that you don't believe in something you can do or accomplish,'' Swanson said. ''I just worry about what I can control and there's no pressure on myself when I do that.''
Swanson spent just 127 games in the minors. The former Vanderbilt standout had a combined .275 average and nine homers and 55 RBIs in 105 games between Mississippi and Class A Carolina.
''This is a very smart kid and a good player,'' President of Baseball Operations John Hart said. ''However he performs up here, I think it's going to be beneficial for him and for us as we go to make a decision to what we're going to do with the shortstop position next year.''
Swanson said he was too young to remember his first game at Turner Field, but by the time he was old enough to pay attention, Braves star third baseman Chipper Jones made a lasting impression.
''Every time I came to a game, Chipper always hit a home run, like five different times,'' Swanson said. ''It was pretty spectacular.''