JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Nick Swisher won't be around to take part in the Yankee Stadium roll call next season, but he performed one last salute to the metropolitan area on Friday.
Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, came to the assistance of the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County, an organization hit hard by the chaos of Hurricane Sandy. The Swisher family made a contribution to help rebuild the club's music program, and they toured the facility in Jersey City Friday.
For Swisher, who signed with the Indians earlier this offseason, it was a way of saying thank you to some of his biggest fans. The veteran outfielder said he's excited to go to Cleveland but that he valued his time in New York and loved having a positive relationship with the community.
"My wife and I, we're really big into giving back. And especially for a place that's been so amazing for us, to be able to give back and to help people, that's right up our alley," said Swisher on Friday. "To be one of the guys who's fortunate enough to give back, it's just something near and dear to our hearts. We love the kids, and anything we can do help them out, that's what we're all about."
The Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County is currently building a new facility, and the Swisher family was able to don hardhats and meet the construction team. And then Swisher got to interact with the kids, who lined up for autographs and a chance to meet one of the game's most gregarious players.
Swisher's visit was organized in conjunction with Magical Builders, a non-profit organization that often works with Major League Baseball to renovate children's facilities.
Swisher will receive the Good Guy Award from the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America Saturday, and he spoke Friday about his decision to join the Indians. It came down to timing, he said, and a chance to go home and begin a new phase of his career.
Swisher was born in Columbus, Ohio, and played college ball at Ohio State, and he'll join the Indians as one of the team's elder statesmen. The 32-year-old said he has a fantastic relationship with new manager Terry Francona and he's hopeful that their rapport will carry over into the season.
"This is going to be my 10th year in the league, and it's the first time I've had a manager ask my opinion on something," he said. "The communication level is just off the charts. ... I'm really excited to experience that. Just having your input on things. I mean, I don't really have many opinions on a lot of things, but when it comes to baseball, it's a game that I love, a game I take a lot of pride in."
Swisher made sure to honor his four seasons in New York, and he said he will always hold the city close to his heart and treasure the memories of a World Series title in 2009. And when it comes to last season, he's already turned the page, preferring instead to think of the year ahead of him.
"Those playoffs were a little rough for [the Yankees] as a group," he said. "I think we're all really excited about getting next season going. I know lot of us are going to a lot of different places, but we all keep in touch with each other. I talked to Russell [Martin] a little bit today. He's in Pittsburgh, I'm in Cleveland. I've got a lot of guys back here. I know everyone's excited to get back and get the season going."
Spring Training lies less than a month away, and Swisher said that he can't wait to get going with his new team. The veteran knows that the Indians have suffered their fair share of adversity in recent seasons, but he believes in Francona and in the team's stockpile of young talent.
Now, he said, it's just a matter of finding the right alchemy. Swisher, an All-Star in 2010, wants to be a part of the solution, and he said that young teams can sometimes exceed expectations.
"Obviously, being on a team like the Yankees, there's a lot of established guys," said Swisher. "You go to Cleveland, it's not the same thing, but there's a lot of young guys that are hungry and want to win. And to be one of those kind of veteran guys, coming in to be in one of those leadership roles, I'm super excited about the opportunity. I've never been on a team before where I've been one of the older guys and a veteran-type presence, but I'm excited for this opportunity."
And if that's not enough on his plate for his Ohio homecoming, Swisher can also count on some definite excitement at home. The Swishers are expecting a baby daughter in May, a life-changing development that frames their latest move in proper perspective.
"We're really excited about the addition of the little one coming here in May. That's kind of really taken a front seat," he said. "After we got all that free agency stuff down, now we're just making sure that baby's good and we're making sure that we're going to be able to give her everything that we can."