Posted on February 18, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
“The dream is over, baby!” That’s how Nick Swisher phrased it when he announced his retirement from professional baseball on Friday. Swisher made the announcement in a long but entertaining piece published Friday at The Players Tribune. His letter begins with a story about playing in a recreational softball league last summer, which tells you everything you need to know about someone who arguably had the most fun of any player in major league history.
Of course, the announcement comes as no surprise. Swisher originally walked away from the game last summer, saying he wanted to take the rest of the season off to spend time with his family. Many thought he would make take one more shot at a comeback and try to catch on with a team this spring. However, there have been no rumblings this winter that he was looking to sign with a major league team. On Friday, he made his retirement official.
Swisher explains that he was never the same player after undergoing knee surgery in August 2014. He struggled throughout the 2014 season with the Cleveland Indians, plagued by knee problems. Swisher says when he showed up to spring training the following year, he “felt like a piece of glass.” When he couldn’t play the way he was accustomed to playing, it took a mental toll on him, and at that point, he knew it was over.
To his credit, Swisher did his best to hang on as long as he could. One would expect no less from a player who had obscene amounts of fun playing baseball. When the Braves released him towards the end of spring training last year, he accepted a minor league deal with the Yankees and put up decent numbers at triple-A. With Mark Teixeira struggling with injuries of his own, some speculated that Swisher may get another chance with the Bronx Bombers. But it was not meant to be. When Swisher walked away from professional baseball last summer, it turned out to be for good.
“You try and hang on for as long as you can, and I’m glad I did, because I had so much fun last year playing with those young guys in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Swisher writes. “When you’ve been the young punk in the locker room before, and then the roles reverse and the young guys are like, ‘Hey man, you O.K.? Can we help you off the bus?’ That’s full circle.”
He admits that he would have liked to play longer, but Swisher says that it felt good to come to grips with his retirement and make it official.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I mean, your body tells you when it’s time to call it quits,” he writes. “And this off-season, my body was screaming, ‘The dream is over, baby!’ And I can’t argue with that. My dream was to play until I was 40 years old, and to be honest, I’m 36 now, and I’m lucky to have played as long as I did.”
Soon after Swisher announced his retirement, Fox Sports announced that it has hired him as a baseball analyst, a job that will keep him connected to the game, which is good news for both Swisher and fans.
For his career, Swisher hit .249 with 245 home runs, posting a career OPS of .799. Those aren’t numbers that will get Swisher into the Hall of Fame. But even if Swisher won’t ever get to Cooperstown, he won’t soon be forgotten. Swisher will long be remembered for being a player who took more joy out of being on a major league field than almost anyone who ever played the game.
Swisher himself says it best in his farewell note: “I guarantee you’re gonna have a hard time ever finding somebody who had as much fun playing the game as I did.”