PITTSBURGH -- Travis Swaggerty didn't start playing baseball until he was 10 years old. He would venture out to the field to watch his father, Travis Sr., during his weekly softball games with friends. That was when Swaggerty developed a love for the game that paired well with his competitive
PITTSBURGH -- Travis Swaggerty didn't start playing baseball until he was 10 years old. He would venture out to the field to watch his father, Travis Sr., during his weekly softball games with friends. That was when Swaggerty developed a love for the game that paired well with his competitive attitude.
"I used to be a pretty aggravating kid," Swaggerty said, "because I always wanted to be first."
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That drive helped propel Swaggerty from undrafted high school senior to 10th overall pick in the MLB Draft. The Pirates on Friday completed a deal with Swaggerty, a highly regarded outfielder from the University of South Alabama, signing him and introducing him at PNC Park. Swaggerty signed with the Bucs for a $4.4 million bonus, according to a source, as first reported by MLB.com's Jim Callis.
"I'm just super excited. I'm so blessed. I mean, I'm choking up right now," Swaggerty said during an afternoon news conference. "I don't want to cry, but I'm going to. I'm just so thankful for the Pirates for thinking of me as such a high pick to represent the organization."
Swaggerty agreed to an under-slot bonus, as the 10th overall pick came with an assigned value of $4,560,200. The 20-year-old will report to Class A Short Season West Virginia on Saturday, though he may not join the Black Bears' lineup for a few days as he gets acclimated to pro ball.
If it were up to Swaggerty, he'd be starting in center field on Day 1. After attending the Draft, Swaggerty returned home to work out and hit so he'd be in the best shape possible for his professional debut, he said. Even after meeting the media on Friday, Swaggerty said he was ready to take off his suit, put on a pair of tennis shoes and hit in the PNC Park batting cages.
That fell in line with everything the Pirates learned about Swaggerty's work ethic, as he hit .296/.455/.526 with 13 homers, 38 RBIs and nine steals in 57 games during his junior season. General manager Neal Huntington said each of the Bucs' evaluators would praise a different element of his game -- hitting, baserunning, defense, toughness and his drive to win.
"As you started to hear them each talk, you recognize that we have a chance to have a pretty special young player," Huntington said. "And that's what we believe we've added to this organization."
On his way to PNC Park, Swaggerty was stunned to realize he was coming across the Roberto Clemente Bridge -- "the bridge," as he repeatedly called it. He'd seen the bridge on TV and in video games, but the idea that he might soon play in front of that backdrop became real on Friday, his first time visiting Pittsburgh.
"Sitting here in front of y'all with a jersey on, with a hat on, it's like, 'Let's do this thing,'" Swaggerty said. "This is real. This is my job now. It's an incredible feeling."
One reason Swaggerty has made it this far, he said, is his father. The two of them have been on their own the last eight years. His father drove him around, took time off from work and made every possible sacrifice for the sake of Swaggerty's career. So you can only imagine the pride Travis Sr. felt when he heard his son's name called by Commissioner Rob Manfred on June 4.
"I think we're probably as close as any father and son can be. We're not only father and son, we're friends," Travis Sr. said. "This game has drawn us closer as father-son as well. I'm grateful for that part of it, too. That's what this game has done for me."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.