NEW YORK — I still remember the first time I saw him play a sport and what he was doing the first time I met him in person. I was employed by a local radio station here in Parkersburg, WV and did a show called SPORTSkids. Every Monday night, I spotlighted a male and female elementary and junior high “Student Athlete of the Week.” In addition, I also went to all of the championship games and recorded the play-by-play with various kids providing the color commentary. Yes, that’s right, usually a kid worked with me providing the commentary and it would be replayed at a later date so the kids could hear their own broadcast!
So there we were, it was the Wood County Junior High Football Championship. Nick and his best friend Eric Grimm were the stars for the Hamilton Junior High team and they were taking on the kids at Blennerhassett Junior High. My jaw dropped during the opening kickoff when Nick, being a former soccer player who handled the kicking duties, boomed the kickoff almost to the end zone! In junior high, as an 8th grader, no less (he was recruited heavily out of high school)! I was a Nick Swisher fan right then and there.
A few years later, I was the sideline reporter for the Parkersburg High School Big Reds during Nick and Eric’s time in high school. Nick was consistently the best RB/CB on the field and the best kicker in the state, by far. The two always played for the title and seemed destined for a future in football. Or did they?
All you had to do was watch a Big Reds baseball game to figure out that football wasnt in Nick’s future. He played at a level in high school that even his most talented teammates, Eric Grimm (played at WVU and spent time in the minors) and Nic Carter (played at Potomac State and played in the minors as well), couldn’t match; his passion, hustle and love for the sport could not be replicated. Nick never left anything on the field.
It’s easy to say that Nick is a hard worker and is devoted to becoming the best he can be; however, you need to look a little closer at his past to realize where this passion and motivation comes from. You see, many athletes have tattoos. Lots of them. And let’s be honest, most have them on display for all to see. Nick, well, he has a tattoo near his heart; simply “BLS” with angel’s wings and a halo. This is to honor his grandmother, Betty Swisher, who passed away from brain cancer on August 14, 2005.
I met Betty on several occasions over the years, was around Nick a lot and know his dad Steve. I can tell you that she was the driving force behind Nick’s accomplishments. Betty had a “sweet old grandma” way about her; but at the very least, she respected everyone and expected the same. I have a picture of Nick and I that I will cherish for a very long time. In the picture, which I took with my cell phone at the local mall, Nick has long and bushy hair. If you know Nick, you know he is very passionate about Swish’s Wishes and puts as much time into that as he does baseball. The groundwork for his charities was laid back when Betty was sick. He wanted to do what he could at the time, because she was a fighter and was doing her best to kick cancer’s behind. So, Nick grew his hair out and once it reached the right length, he cut it off and donated it to Locks of Love, a charity that takes care of cancer patients who cannot afford wigs.
I remember leaving the mall that day after asking him how things were going and realized that he was probably going to lose the most important person in his life. I had a good cry; I’m the type of emotional guy that hurts when someone who I care about is hurting. Nick was hurting. The public was unaware because he was working hard at being the wonderful grandson that he is. Unfortunately, Nick also lost his grandfather last November and his mother was diagnosed with Leukemia shortly before he was married.
The one thing he needs from fans like you and I is for us to continue to support him on and off the field, especially for the things he does outside of baseball. If you check out his website, you’ll see that he’s very busy off the field. He’s the heartbeat of the clubhouse for the Yankees, he’s married to an actress now (that is wonderful) and he spends everyday working to make his charities better. And the one reason that he does all of these things? Betty Lorraine Swisher. She’s the reason he’s much more than just a Yankee star.
We at The Good in Sports feel he deserves a Gold Star! Congrats, Nick!
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