CLEVELAND — Designated hitter Nick Swisher was proud to wear a patriotic-themed Indians cap as part of MLB’s Fourth of July celebration.
“Swish” enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he offered a suggestion to the league’s marketing department for next year.
“If it was up to me, we’d be wearing flags all over our body today,” Swisher said Friday prior to the Tribe’s series opener against Kansas City. “I’m serious, bro. The more red, white and blue on days like this, the better.
“I hope while everybody is enjoying themselves, they also take a step back and appreciate the freedoms we have in this country. The sacrifices of our soldiers make all of this fun we’re having possible.”
Those aren’t just hollow words from the 33-year-old Columbus native.
Swisher and his actress wife, JoAnna Garcia, traveled to Afghanistan over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday to personally thank the troops for their service. He said they traveled to 14 front-line Army bases and met more than 15,000 soldiers along the way.
“I’m not going to lie, I can’t say I wasn’t scared (expletive),” the Ohio State product said. “We traveled by helicopter, and when you land in an active war zone, you don’t just land. You’re in full gear, helmets, vests, everything — and you’re running from the time you set down until you reach the safe area.”
Despite being in obvious danger during the trip, Swisher said he and his wife didn’t regret their decision at any point. They also plan on sharing the story with their toddler daughter as she grows older, hoping to inspire her to similar endeavors.
“Anybody can write a check, man, but going over to thank them face to face was something that we felt was really important,” he said. “My wife is my better half and she makes me a better person. We stick together, whatever we do, which is why we jumped at this opportunity.”
The Swishers’ philanthropic work has continued since they moved to Cleveland last spring, devoting time and resources to the Providence House, Boys & Girls Club, FBI Citizens Academy and Cleveland Indians Charities.
Those efforts were recognized in a pregame ceremony in which Swisher was introduced as a finalist for the second annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. One MLB player, one Hall of Famer and one Navy serviceman are selected by a panel that includes Feller’s widow, Anne.
“Any time your name is mentioned in the same sentence with Bob Feller, it’s an honor,” Swisher said. “He’s an American hero, a Navy veteran and one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. I’m very humbled by the nomination.”
- The Indians went 4-4 on their just completed nine-day road trip. They split two games in Arizona, won once in three tries in Seattle, then swept a pair of contests at the Dodgers. “We played eight games, but it seemed like we were gone a month,” manager Terry Francona said. “Between the long days, long games, crazy things that happened, it was a long trip. We’re definitely glad to be home for a while.”
- Right-hander Corey Kluber is 7-6 with a 2.99 ERA through 18 starts, putting him in contention for a spot on the American League All-Star team. Francona said Boston manager John Farrell, who will pilot the AL squad in the July 15 showcase, has spoken with him about Kluber. “I don’t want to single any of our guys out, but John has reached out to me,” Francona said. “I obviously told him I thought highly of a couple of our guys.”
- Zach McAllister is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five starts and Danny Salazar is 2-5 with a 4.75 ERA in seven appearances at Triple-A Columbus. Both were members of the Tribe’s starting rotation earlier this season. “Zach threw the baseball pretty well in his last outing,” Francona said. “Danny did, too.”
- Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar and catcher Roberto Perez have been named to the Triple-A All-Star Game, which takes place July 16 in Durham, N.C. Aguilar is batting .278 with a team-high 12 home runs and 43 RBIs, while Perez has a .315 average with eight homers and 40 RBIs.
- Double-A Akron outfielder Tyler Naquin and second baseman Joey Wendle both underwent surgery to repair broken hands Thursday at Cleveland Clinic. Naquin leads the RubberDucks with a .313 average, while Wendle has driven in 45 runs.
- Shortstop Yhoxian Medina notched his second straight three-hit game as Single-A Carolina routed Lynchburg 10-4. The Mudcats swept the three-game home series from the Hillcats and have a 6-1 record since June 27.
- Outfielder Clint Frazier went 2-for-5 with a run for Single-A Lake County in its 8-5 loss to Bowling Green. The Indians’ first-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games to raise his average to .246.
- Indians catcher Yan Gomes, a native of Brazil, wore a soccer jersey supporting his homeland during batting practice. The World Cup game between Brazil and Colombia was airing simultaneously on the main scoreboard.
- The Tribe entered the weekend with the lowest average attendance in MLB at 16,834, but should move past the Rays (17,030) during its 10-game homestand. The White Sox (20,299) rank 28th in the 30-team circuit.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.