In the first of a three-part series with Esurance #CallUpWorthy 2016 player ambassadors, MiLB.com spoke with Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson about his brief stint in the Minor Leagues, adjusting to the Majors, getting traded to his hometown team and how it will feel to help open the Braves' new ballpark in 2017.
A College World Series MVP with Vanderbilt, Dansby Swanson was drafted first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, spending 22 games with the Class A Short Season Hillsboro Hops that summer. During the 2015-16 offseason, however, the standout shortstop was part of Arizona's December trade with Atlanta for Shelby Miller, and the Braves assigned their new top prospect to Class A Advanced Carolina.
After a dominant April, the organization promoted Swanson to Double-A Mississippi, where he held his own over 84 games before skipping Triple-A entirely and being called up to Atlanta on Aug. 17. The 22-year-old impressed in 38 contests, slashing .302/.361/.442 with 17 RBIs for the Braves.
MiLB.com: As a Georgia native, what was your reaction when you were traded to Atlanta?
Swanson: To be honest, I didn't know what to think. Everyone was saying, "This is the best thing ever, you got traded home," and I didn't know what to think -- I didn't know if I wanted to be home. I was across the country exploring a new life, and it's a little bit different. At first, I thought of the negatives. You never know what comes with being home and playing for your hometown team and what that could bring. After a week, I told myself not to come to any conclusions and let the emotions die down. Not only is it a great opportunity, but not many people can say they get to play for the team they grew up down the street from. There's a lot of special people in the organization and a great outlook for the future, which is something that means a lot to me.
MiLB.com: What were your thoughts when you got the call to the Majors?
Swanson: I couldn't even believe it was happening. I was with [Double-A Mississippi first baseman] Jacob Schrader laying in the hotel room, and we were freaking out. I called my mom and she didn't answer, my dad didn't answer, my sister didn't answer. I was so unhappy they didn't answer that I didn't even call my brother. I called my agent and we had our moment. My truck had just gotten finished, and I was panicking and scrambling to make sure they would stay open late enough for me to get it -- they were open until 5:00 and I got the call at 4:45. I had a mini panic attack like, "Am I even going to be able to drive home tonight, so it was pretty funny."
MiLB.com: How will it feel to help open the Braves' new ballpark in April?
Swanson: Turner Field had its 20-year special run and there's so much history that was created there in that short span. Now it's a new start and a new opportunity presented to us and our organization. Where it's located is right around where baseball is popular, close to people who have season tickets and want to come. New parks [around baseball] are trying to create an experience, not just a game, like a mini town.
MiLB.com: What has been your best MLB moment so far?
Swanson: The first and the last day. The first day -- fulfilling your dream -- is something that can't even be put into words. Not only making the debut, [but] being at home and basically being everything you could ever dream of, with your friends and family and people who mean a lot to you being able to see you succeed -- it was special. The last day, closing down Turner Field, was a neat moment since I grew up watching games in that park and there's a lot of history. Being able to contribute and be a part of that and seeing it come to a close was actually somewhat emotional.
MiLB.com: What was the biggest surprise about the Majors?
Swanson: I lived my whole life to get to that moment, so I pretty much envisioned everything I could possibly go through. Nothing really caught me off-guard -- it was just a great time.
MiLB.com: What has been your biggest life change since your call-up?
Swanson: I've always been dedicated to my craft and try to be laser-focused on what I need to do and prepare for each day and every moment. Just learning to cherish every day and go about your day's work as you always have, and if you take care of that, everything will take care of itself.
MiLB.com: Which ballparks have been your favorite to play in?
Swanson: Hillsboro was phenomenal. There were 4,500 people at games every night. The [general manager] took care of us. They treated us really well -- I got spoiled being a part of that team. When I came up to Atlanta, there's a lot of good people up and down the organization. In every place you can surround yourself with good people, and that's very important to me. But I have to say Atlanta -- that's my pride and joy. Being able to play in that stadium in front of people I grew up with and know, that's just my favorite.
MiLB.com: Which teammates have you connected with most?
Swanson: I met Schrader in Mississippi and he's probably my best friend so far in baseball. Who he is and what he stands for are everything you can ask for in a friend, and having him with me the whole time in Mississippi was special. Ozzie [Albies] is a great kid, good head on his shoulders and is all about winning. Dustin Pederson is a phenomenal talent, great guy, does whatever he needs to do to win game. As far as the Major Leagues, I was very happy with the kind of guys [the Braves] have -- [we] pride ourselves on having respectful people. Jace Peterson is awesome. I love him like a brother. Freddie [Freeman] has been nice to me, put me under his wing a bit -- things to do, things not to do. Gordon Beckham did the same thing -- mentoring me a little bit, just making sure I handled myself the right way, some things you may not even think of -- before he got traded. All the guys in our locker room are great. They're there to win, and whenever you can surround yourself with people like that, you know you're going in the right direction.
MiLB.com: You skipped a level in two of your promotions. Did that affect you, not only moving up, but making a big leap?
Swanson: Baseball is baseball. It's the same game, same rules. Everything applies whether you're playing in high school or the big leagues -- just the speed of the game changes. I never really focused on other people's expectations, just my own and taking care of my business, doing it in a team way. That's just kind of how I look at things, and it's been successful for me, so I'm just going to continue to do that.
MiLB.com: What was your best Minor League memory?
Swanson: It's hard to dive into just one. My favorite thing was, you come into pro ball, especially [after] being in school, everything was always about team. Everyone says once you get to pro ball that changes, but everywhere I went we were able to create a team atmosphere and a love and passion for winning. That was probably the best part, taking something that was uncommon in pro ball, creating relationships with everybody on the team and not just going where you want to go. Getting that everywhere I went was pretty neat to be a part of.