Bill Swift is a baseball lifer. And right now he is enjoying life under the national radar.The second player selected in the 1984 Draft, Swift spent 13 years in the big leagues, pitching for the Mariners, Giants and Rockies. He led the National League with a 2.08 ERA with the
Bill Swift is a baseball lifer. And right now he is enjoying life under the national radar.
The second player selected in the 1984 Draft, Swift spent 13 years in the big leagues, pitching for the Mariners, Giants and Rockies. He led the National League with a 2.08 ERA with the Giants in 1992 and won 21 games for them the next year.
The first significant free-agent pitcher signed by the Rockies, he was a part of the 1995 rotation, when Colorado became the first NL Wild Card team, in the franchise's third year of existence. He started Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Braves, the only game the Rockies won.
Swift has since retired to Scottsdale, Ariz., where he is raising his family and is the head baseball coach at Arizona Christian College, an NAIA school located in north Scottsdale. The Firestorm opened its season by hosting College of Idaho in a four-game series this past weekend. The Firestorm is a member of the 10-member Golden State Athletic Conference. The team was a combined 26-64 in Swift's first two springs.
It is a challenge, admits Swift, in this week's Question and Answer.
MLB.com: Do you miss the big league life?
Swift: I like this. Dusty Baker came up to me a few years ago and said, "You want to come to Spring Training, hang around, work with pitchers and see if you like it?" I told him I didn't know. I see (former teammate) Walt Weiss and those guys at the Rockies camp. They are in the same grind, the baseball grind. The travel. They put in a lot of hours. There are a lot of hours in what I am doing, but those guys put in even more hours, and the travel. I don't know if I want to do that again. I might get a bug when this is over, if the college game ends for me, but I've been having fun.
I have three girls. Being around these guys, they are like sons to me. I try and show them the respect I learned as a baseball player growing up -- the respect my college coach at Maine passed on to me. I tell them to enjoy these four years, because they could be the last time you play baseball.
MLB.com: How did you get into coaching?
Swift: I had a friend call me. He told me Scottsdale Christian Academy, where my daughters went to school, was looking for a girls basketball coach. He knew I had coached girls basketball in the offseason when I was in Seattle. He told me to come over and look at it. I said, "Sure, why not?" I had been retired a couple of years and needed something to do. I went over and met the AD. He was the basketball and baseball coach. He was like, "Didn't you play baseball? We are looking for a baseball coach." I said sure I'd do it. I took over the high school job and did that for 12 years. We won a couple state championships and was the runner-up one year. It was a chance to give back to those kids everything I have learned, and I am still able to do that at the college level.
MLB.com: What prompted you to make the move to college?
Swift: This job was kind of a whirlwind of coaches when they started up the program. I did apply for the job five years ago, but they wanted a coach with a little more experience in recruiting and the budget aspects. They hired Thad Bosley. He was here for two months, and the Texas Rangers hired him as the hitting coach. Then they hired Doyle Wilson, who had been an assistant coach at USC, and he took a scouting job with the Diamondbacks. The athletic director at the time was Don Mitchell, who had been the scouting director of the Diamondbacks, then coached here. He called me. He said, "I have 50 applications on my desk, but the job is yours if you want it." It has been a good move.
MLB.com: Have you been able to tap into some old connections for players?
Swift: Last year we had Cody Rose, Bobby Rose's son. And this year, two of our seniors are Chris Burks, Ellis' son, and Jake Wakamatsu, Don's son. I remember watching Chris coming to Coors Field when he was growing up. It is nice to have that bloodline in the program. It is fun to have the dad come around and talk baseball with the kids. Ellis came one day and talked about a hitting approach.
MLB.com: The recruiting must be a challenge?
Swift: We are a Christian school. We need Christian players. I can do all the recruiting I want, but it does come down to faith, and you have to ask about it. If they don't have the faith and follow Jesus Christ, we can't get them in here. Then there are grades -- the GPA and ACT scores. The first thing you teach them is not many guys move to the next level. They come here to go to school, get a degree and let baseball take care of itself.
MLB.com: What about expectations on the field?
Swift: I expect a lot. I grew up playing baseball in small town Maine. Arizona is a baseball factory. You can play year-round. Sometimes you lose that drive, because you are playing so much. In Maine, you have a short window when you can play, maybe 15 high school games. As a kid you are gung-ho, eager to play. You'd play football, basketball, baseball. Here they play baseball year-round, and some boys burn out. They lose some of the drive. That's tough to deal with.
MLB.com: I'm sure there are days you go home wondering about what you did to yourself?
Swift: It has been challenge. You have smiles one day and not the next. It's a lot of gray hairs.
**Tracy Ringolsby** is a columnist for MLB.com.