Top MLB pick Swanson makes pro debut after injury

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) Dansby Swanson doesn’t really remember the pitch that came hurtling toward him, hitting him squarely in the face. That’s probably for the best.

”I got hit, and all I remember was thinking, `What on earth?”’ he said. ”All I knew was that something was wrong.”

The sight of blood confirmed those fears for the top pick in the major league draft.

Swanson, a star at Vanderbilt, was hurt last month just days after he officially signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was playing in a simulated game before he was scheduled to embark on his fledgling pro career with one of the team’s affiliates.

In addition to needing 14 stitches – nine on the outside of his mouth, five on the inside – he also suffered a serious concussion.

”Third day on the job and already going to the hospital. That’s not a good start,” he laughed. ”But maybe everything happens for a reason.”

Today, Swanson is in Oregon, making his professional debut with the Hillsboro Hops, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks. Introducing himself with an outstretched hand, he’s good natured about the repeated questions about the scary injury that postponed the start of his career.

Swanson started at shortstop on Wednesday night against Vancouver, the first of a four-game homestand against the Canadians. He batted second, striking out twice. The Hops are currently 9-5 in the Northwest League’s South division.

He said he was never nervous about facing a pitcher, because he can’t remember anything about the pitch that hit him – just the aftermath.

Although the life of a minor leaguer is always in flux, he expects to be with the Hops at least through the homestand.

”I’ve been out for about seven weeks now, including after the end of the college season, so I’m just trying to get into a routine and rhythm and get acclimated to professional baseball. Get my feet wet, so to speak,” he said.

Swanson, who hails from Marietta, Georgia, decided to forgo his senior year at Vanderbilt after he was selected as the top pick in the draft by the Diamondbacks. He hit .325 with 15 home runs, 24 doubles, six triples, 64 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and 76 runs as a junior with the Commodores this past season.

The year before, he batted .333 and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series after helping Vanderbilt to the national title against Virginia.

He was Vanderbilt’s second No. 1 overall pick after David Price in 2007. And he’s honored by the chance to do something he loves for a living.

”I’m just trying to enjoy each day as it comes just because it’s fun,” he said. ”One thing I’ve learned is to take what you do seriously, but you don’t have to take yourself seriously while you’re doing it. So, just trying to enjoy myself out here.”