ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson, whose scar over his left eye is finally starting to heal, looked across the Truist Park interview room late Saturday night, trying to put it all into words without crying.
Swanson, 27, was born and raised in these parts, a true Atlantan, through and through, who dreamed of this moment since he picked up a baseball.
His mom was a tennis and basketball star at Marietta High School. His dad played baseball there too. He is a fan of every Atlanta sports team.
“I have so much pride and passion for this city,” Swanson says.
He grew up watching Fred McGriff and Chipper Jones hit homers, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz pitch shutouts, and Bobby Cox’s teams reach the playoffs year after year after year.
He fantasized that one day he would be a baseball star in Atlanta, too, hitting a dramatic World Series homer, spraying champagne in the clubhouse, while wildly celebrating a championship.
Well, after what happened Saturday night, with his dramatic game-tying home run in the seventh inning, immediately followed by teammate Jorge Soler’s go-ahead homer in Atlanta’s 3-2 comeback victory over the Houston Astros, all that remains is that trophy presentation and parade.
Atlanta is one victory away from winning its first World Series championship since 1995 with a 3-games-to-1 lead over the Astros, and the potential clincher Sunday night (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX) at Truist Park.
Swanson can feel it now. It’s so close, he can almost touch it.
The hometown kid, who became only the second shortstop in franchise history to homer in a World Series game, joining Johnny Logan of Milwaukee in Game 2 of the 1957 Series, can’t believe this is happening.
He played collegiately at Vanderbilt, was drafted with the first pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, was traded to Atlanta six months later and has played six seasons in the big leagues.
“I don’t know if you can really sum it up,’’ says Swanson, who had dozens of family members and friends at the game. “I just know that God’s blessed me so much to be here, getting traded here. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, to be able to be back home, and to be able to play for this city, and to just grow (up in) this community. That moment, it means a lot. It really does.”
Atlanta was eight outs away from losing this game, and falling into a 2-2 tie in this best-of-seven series, with all of the momentum shifting toward the Astros.
Swanson, hitting just .225 with only one extra-base hit this postseason, and hitless since his first at-bat in Game 2, stepped to the plate with Atlanta down 2-1 with one out in the seventh.
He found himself down 0-and-2 in the count with Astros reliever Cristian Javier throwing all sliders. This time, Javier threw a 95-mph fastball.
He left it over the middle of the plate.
Swanson swung, and sent it over the right-field wall. He yelled, thrust his right arm up in the air, rounded the bases, and the crowd of 43,125 roared.
“I’ve been waiting for Dansby to do a Dansby-esque type thing,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “The kid likes the moment. I know that.
“He has for as long as he’s been here.”
Well, when you’ve been fantasizing about this magical moment from tee ball to Little League to high school to travel ball to collegiate ball to the minors to the big leagues, you certainly have plenty of time to imagine the feeling.
“I’ve played that over and over and over again in my head a million times, whether it was for this team or just in this moment in general,” Swanson said. “There’s obviously been a lot of work that’s gone into this moment and a lot of dreams that have gone into this moment.
“I’m just thankful for great parents and great family that have pushed me and believed in me to get me to this moment.”
Swanson was barely in the dugout when Soler swung four pitches later, sending Javier’s 80-mph slider just over the left-field wall.
It was only the third time in history that back-to-back homers produced the game-tying and go-ahead runs in a World Series game, joining Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, and a couple of guys named Ruth and Gehrig in 1928.
LIGHTNING STRIKES: Swanson, Soler power Braves in Game 4
What in the world does that mean to someone who lives and breathes everything about baseball and Atlanta sports.
“I don’t know,’’ Swanson said. “Maybe we can have this chat in about 10 years when I’m getting old and I have kids and stuff like that.
“But baseball’s been around a long time, and for this to be the third time is pretty special. So it’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around what just happened.’’
It’s the kind of thing that makes legends, moments that will live forever, and dreams of kids growing up wanting to be just like Swanson.
“I’m probably the definition of ball is life,’’ Swanson said. “I grew up on a baseball field. I was the annoying kid that would throw the tennis ball on the field because I was trying to play wall-ball off the dugout and stuff like that …
“God’s given me so much, and I’m thankful to be able to pour it back into this city.’’
Certainly, there have been plenty of aches and pains, broken bones and pulled muscles along the way, but Swanson never envisioned that one of his teammates would nearly wipe out his postseason dreams.
It was after Eddie Rosario’s walk-off single in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, with Swanson scoring the winning run, and his teammates storming the field, when one errant helmet went flying into the air and crashed into his face.
Blood poured out above his left eye, and while his teammates celebrated in the clubhouse, he was getting four stitches to close the gash.
“Battle scars, baby,’’ Swanson told USA TODAY Sports. “It was just a thrown walk-off helmet. What goes up, must come down.
“It’s funny now, but at the time, I was not happy.”
Well, considering all the injuries Atlanta has endured in the regular season, with Game 1 starter (Charlie Morton) breaking his leg and COVID sidelining one of its top sluggers (Soler) in the postseason, what’s a few stitches?
“We’ve gone through so much this year,’’ Swanson says, “so much adversity with injuries, with guys being out. I mean, we’ve had to grind and earn every bit of everything we’ve had.
“I feel like that’s a little bit of what’s made it so special and the chemistry so unique because we’ve all been through it together.
“We’ve had to rely on different guys at different times. Different guys getting hot. The right guys getting hot at the right time.
“I just feel like we have so much belief in one another that that’s kind of led to where we’re at.’’
One more victory to go.
One more celebration to be held.
And one more memory to live forever in Atlanta folklore.
“There’s still a lot left to be written,’’ Swanson said, “and I think that we need to go out and continue to compete to put ourselves in that position to give this city what it’s been longing for.
“Hopefully, we can talk after some celebration.’’
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dansby Swanson living the dream leading hometown Braves toward title
Source: Yahoo Sports