Nick Swisher had plenty of good days playing baseball at Bill Davis Stadium for Ohio State from 2000-02.
However, the former Buckeye star said none of those days compared to a gray afternoon in November. In front of family, friends and fans, Swisher was honored today for the $500,000 donation he gave to Ohio State that helped pay for the program's new turf field.
In return, Ohio State officially dedicated the field that will now be known as Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.
"I couldn't be more excited," Swisher said. "I keep looking at my name, and it's shocking."
Seeing the current players unveil the plate on the center field wall bearing his name left Swisher almost speechless, he said.
Almost, that is. Those who know the rambunctious New York Yankees outfielder know he still had plenty to say, even if he couldn’t stick to the script he had written because he was overwhelmed by the sheer excitement of it all.
“I think this is probably (my best memory of Ohio State),” he said. “I mean, my feet aren’t even touching the ground. I’ve been through so many things, I’ve been so many places, but this university holds a huge place in my heart. I’m a Buckeye for life.”
Swisher will stay in Columbus through the weekend, when he will be recognized at halftime of the football game against Indiana on Saturday.
While such public recognition of his donation is likely nice for the former OSU outfielder/first baseman, Swisher seemed most excited to reconnect with his Buckeye roots.
He’s become a full-fledged backer of the coaching staff led by second-year head man Greg Beals, visiting the team in Florida this spring when it opened its season, and his return to OSU for the ceremony allowed him to catch with those around the program who are still in place.
Along with a number of former teammates and other OSU letter winners, Swisher was happy to see longtime Ohio State booster Bill Wells, whose family endowed the scholarship Swisher received while playing at Ohio State.
“I can only say Nick is a family member, always has an always will be, and thank god he’s a Buckeye,” Wells told the crowd.
Current Ohio State reliever David Fathalikhani spoke at the ceremony and also presented Swisher – who was accompanied by his wife, actress Joanna Garcia, and family members – with a batting helmet signed by members of the team.
Beals served as emcee of the event and used his time to talk about the impact the new field will have on his program.
“It really helps the recruiting process when I can point to that wall that’s in our hallway and can point to the picture of Nick Swisher and I can say, ‘You can be an All-American. You can be a first-rounder. You can be the right fielder for the Yankees,’ ” Beals said. “It can all start here at Ohio State University. That means a lot, that we can show the direction and that we’ve been there and we’ve done that here in Buckeye baseball.”
The new field was installed during the summer and was ready in time for the team’s fall practice sessions. The installation of the artificial surface – whose use has started to proliferate in college baseball – will allow Ohio State to practice and play games outside in the spring earlier than ever before.
The field will also drain better than the previous grass surface, which struggled to stay in game condition during the rainy spring of 2011, and allow OSU to restart play quicker after rain delays – all important considerations in northern baseball.
“I hope this helps out because we’ve been Omaha-bound for a long time now, and I think it’s time we break through and get there,” Swisher said.
As Swisher alluded to, the hope is to return Ohio State to national prominence. The Buckeyes won the 1966 College World Series but have not returned to the event in Omaha since despite coming close a number of times.
“I’ve always been one of those guys that I’ve been raised saying it’s always better to give than receive,” Swisher said. “It’s something that at this place is needed, and to be fortunate enough to be able to help out, I couldn’t be more happy.”
The son of former major league All-Star catcher Steve Swisher, Nick earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2000 when he hit .299 while blasting 10 homers with 48 RBI. He earned first-team Big Ten honors the next two years, hitting 15 homers in ’01 then hitting .348 with 10 more bombs in ’02 before being a first-round choice of the Oakland Athletics.
One of the central characters of the book “Moneyball” that focused on the A’s draft that season, Swisher was called up to the majors in 2004 by Oakland before winning the World Series with the Yankees in 2009 and earning All-Star honors in ’10. He has hit at least 20 homers in each of his seven full MLB seasons.
Swisher has also been lauded for his upbeat personality and work ethic that has helped over the long haul of the season in the Yankees clubhouse.
“A lot of people have great personality like he has, but it’s the character that stays with everybody’s memory forever,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. “We want to thank you, Nick, for everything that you’ve given the sport of baseball and thank you for this unbelievable contribution to Ohio State University and this baseball program.”
The Buckeyes will open the home portion of the 2012 slate March 16 against Austin Peay in the first game at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium. The overall season begins Feb. 17 vs. South Florida in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Swisher said he has three applications on his iPad to follow along with the Buckeyes.
“Coach Beals and his staff have a lot of new guys in there and I believe in those guys, and I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Swisher said.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith (left) speaks at a ceremony recognizing Nick Swisher (far right) for his $500,000 donation to help install new turf at Bill Davis Stadium.
Ohio State booster/scholarship donor Bill Wells (left) also spoke at the ceremony.
As did OSU baseball coach Greg Beals (left).
Swisher (center) played for the Buckeyes from 2000-02.
He was joined by his wife, actress Joanna Garcia (right).
The members of the Ohio State baseball team posed with Swisher and Garcia for a photo after the ceremony.
Swisher with the field that now bears his name.
1 of 7 photos