Nick Swisher rounded first base, his head swiveled 90 degrees as he surveyed the trajectory of the ball he just swatted.
Once it cleared the wall in right-center field, he leapt in the air, clapped his hands together and shouted before easing into a steady trot. Swisher's two-run homer vaulted New York to a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning last Friday against the Indians.
"I get excited," Swisher said. "I'm an emotional guy. My heart's on my sleeve. In a situation like that, we had just gone through a rough patch in Chicago last series. We come here, it's 1-1 in the seventh, we go up. I'm excited, man, you know?"
Two frames later, he nearly added to the Yankees' lead. This time, though, when Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo corralled the fly ball in front of the wall, Swisher stopped in his tracks short of second base, peered at first-base coach Mick Kelleher and motioned with his thumb and index finger how close he was to a second consecutive long ball. The anguish on his face painted the portrait of a man disappointed in the outcome, but appreciative of the opportunity to earn that chance to produce.
"He's his own thing," said Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson. "Everyone sees it and notices it and takes it. You don't see other guys with the same type of energy."
Swisher will turn 32 in November, but he routinely displays the passion and enthusiasm more commonly observed each August on the fields in Williamsport, Pa., by players one-third of his age. Some Major Leaguers might take offense to Swisher's propensity to showcase his emotions, but his teammates wouldn't have it any other way.
"You hate playing against him, but once you have him on your team, you love the guy," said Jack Hannahan, who played with Swisher in Oakland in 2007. "He plays hard, he plays the game the right way, he has good at-bats and he keeps things fun. He's always joking around, having a good time. And when it's game time, he's able to turn that light switch on to go out and take care of business."
Swisher is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and he's sure to command a hefty payday. A CBS Sports report indicated that Swisher could ask for a contract similar to the seven-year, $126 million deal the Nationals gave outfielder Jayson Werth. Swisher has slugged at least 20 home runs and tallied at least 70 RBIs in each of the past eight seasons. Whether Swisher finds a new home or remains with the Yankees, the team that snatches him up will know what it's getting, both on and off the field.
"He has a different type of energy than a lot of other players. That's what makes him such a good baseball player," Hannahan said. "He believes in himself, he believes in his ability, and he goes out there and shows it."
On a Yankees squad littered with past and present All-Stars and World Series winners and future Hall of Famers, Swisher stands out. As he warmed up in the outfield prior to the eighth inning on Friday, he joined the Progressive Field crowd in a rendition of "Hang On Sloopy," a Buckeye State staple and a song popular on the campus of his alma mater, Ohio State. It's difficult to imagine team captain Derek Jeter or longtime closer Mariano Rivera motioning an O-H-I-O with their arms in the eighth inning of a close game on the road.
Swisher asserts that he has been lively and exuberant his entire life and that won't change, no matter the circumstance.
"Everyone has a different personality, and everybody has something that has them here," Swisher said. "I feel like you just have to be yourself, man, you know? If it rubs off, hey, cool. If not, no big deal."
After all, who can blame Swisher for enjoying his profession as much as he does?
"This is what I love to do," Swisher said. "This is my passion and I just let it shine."