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  • Writer's pictureGrant McAuley

MDJ: Chicago Cubs' Dansby Swanson 'grateful' in return to Truist Park

Dansby Swanson of the Chicago Cubs
Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson chats with former Braves teammates. (Grant McAuley)

A familiar face strode back into Truist Park on Tuesday. Only this time, he made the unfamiliar turn to the visitor’s clubhouse and then took the field clad in a different uniform.

Dansby Swanson, a local kid who helped usher in a new age of Atlanta Braves baseball already highlighted by a World Series championship in 2021, returned to the stadium he once called home, a proverbial stone’s throw from where he was born and raised.

The Kennesaw native was back in town for the first time as a member of the Chicago Cubs as the two teams opened up a three-game series with some postseason implications for both clubs.

“I think ‘grateful’ is just the common word that I’ve been thinking about,” Swanson said as he fielded questions for roughly 10 minutes prior to Tuesday’s game in the visiting dugout.

With a little humor dashed with humility and charm, all delivered in his trademark tone and tenor, Swanson reflected on his time with Atlanta and his new chapter in Chicago.

There was a home cooked meal with his parents on Monday and the small matter of finding a parking spot as a visiting player, but once he got settled in and back out on the field he knows so well, Swanson went a little deeper.

“I spent six or seven years of my career here (with) nothing but great memories and support from everyone,” Swanson said. “From the people up top, to the guys who you grind it out with every day, to the fans here, everyone has always shown me a lot of love and respect. Especially when it’s your hometown and where you grew up, it obviously means a ton, if not a little bit more.”

Swanson’s local ties are many and his roots in the community run deep.

A stand-out athlete for Marietta High School before playing his college ball at Vanderbilt, Swanson was selected No. 1 overall in the 2015 MLB June draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks only to be dealt to his hometown Braves six months later in a stunning trade.

After spending his first seven seasons with the Braves, Swanson signed a seven-year, $177 million free-agent contract with the Cubs over the winter.

In his first season with the Cubs, Swanson is batting .248 with 22 home runs, 80 RBI and 79 runs scored, all while playing sterling defense in 143 games.

Coming to bat for the first time as a member of the visiting team in the top of the second inning, Swanson received a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd at Truist Park, the site of some of his greatest moments and memories.

“Nothing but love and smiles,” was how Swanson described the homecoming and his time spent catching with friends and former teammates as they gathered outside the Braves dugout prior to Tuesday’s series opener.

“Being able to see people that you’ve built relationships with over the last six or seven years, (there’s) nothing but love for one another,” Swanson said. “Just being able to catch up and see how peoples’ families are doing, see if everybody is holding up healthy and everything. (I’m) just very thankful to be able to have good people in my life.”

Those people were pleased to cross paths with Swanson as well.

“It’s always going to be good to see Dansby,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He played such a big role here for his time... His time here was really good and he meant a lot to us.”

This was not the first time Swanson crossed paths with his former team this season. The Braves visited Wrigley Field in early August, where they dropped a series to the Cubs.

Having that prior chance to reconnect as well as seeing some of his current teammates like Cody Bellinger navigate their homecomings earlier this season gave Swanson some perspective when the time to return to Atlanta finally arrived this week.

“We’ve had some guys that have gone through it this year for us, so to be able to see how they’ve handled it and talk to them has been awesome,” Swanson said. “It was nice being able to experience a little bit of that earlier in the year when (the Braves) came up to Chicago. Being able to see old friends and be able to just catch up on things, that does your soul good.”

Swanson was a key player for the Braves as they reclaimed some of their former glory and brought just the second World Series title to the city. The final out of Atlanta’s decisive Game 6 victory over the Houston Astros was a ground ball to Swanson, who then tossed across the diamond to Freddie Freeman to end it.

Over the past two winters, both men have since departed as free agents.

Freeman’s tearful return to Atlanta as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022 was one of the more surreally emotional events in recent memory, but Swanson’s was a far more toned down affair.

While he clearly enjoyed being back home, Swanson described the prevailing feeling as both one of gratitude for the entire experience with the Braves and for his new team as well.

“I think everyone knows it’s an emotional time,” Swanson said. “I’ve spent so much time here and have appreciated every second of it. Now, being able to come back and just feel that same kind of love is pretty awesome.”

While his new team is fighting to secure a Wild Card spot, Swanson’s old club has already wrapped up its sixth consecutive National League East title and is attempting to close out the regular season with the best record in Major League Baseball and gain home field advantage throughout the postseason.

This late-season rendezvous is a pivotal series for the Cubs and represents a chance for Swanson to reach the postseason for the sixth straight year.

Chicago holds the third and final Wild Card spot with five games to play but is wrapped up in a four-team battle with Arizona, the Cincinnati Reds, and Miami Marlins, who are all within 2 1/2 games of one another with two spots up for grabs in the final week of the season.

Not that Swanson needed any extra motivation to gear up for this trip home.

“Everybody over there and everybody over here knows I’m really competitive,” Swanson said. “It wouldn’t really matter the stakes, (because) I think winning is always the most important thing and will continue to be that way for probably as long as I live, whether I’m playing or coaching or whatever I’m doing.”

This article originally appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal. Find it here.


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