CUMBERLAND — Dansby Swanson said he had a hard time dealing with the way the Atlanta Braves’ season ended last fall.
Needing a win in over the St. Louis Cardinals in decisive fifth game of the National League Championship Series, Atlanta was out of it before it had a chance to come to bat. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning, en route to a 13-1 loss.
It was a defeat Swanson, the Braves’ shortstop and a former Marietta High School standout, needed time to process.
“Baseball is a game of failure,” Swanson said Saturday during the team’s Chop Fest at Truist Park. “You are going to win 50, lose 50 and, the other 62, it’s a toss-up. I take losing pretty bad, and I was not a happy camper that night. I think the ultimate jab in the back was Washington beating the Dodgers (to reach the NL Championship Series) that night. It was pretty emotional. I definitely had a lot of tears, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.”
Swanson was one of the Braves’ best players in the playoffs, hitting .389, but a heel injury in July robbed him of a chance to prove he was becoming one of the best young players in baseball.
Before the All-Star break, Swanson was hitting .270 with 17 home runs and 57 RBIs. He was in the discussion to make his first All-Star game, and he had already reached career highs in homers and RBIs.
However, the injury came July 23, and after missing more than a month, Swanson was not the same player. After the All-Star break, he hit only .204, with no homers and only eight RBIs.
“Hopefully, we get first-half Dansby,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “When you get hurt in the middle of the season and lose 30 games, it’s tough to get your timing back, so I think he’s going to be All-Star-caliber again.”
Now healthy, Swanson has been able to put in the work necessary to make sure he is ready to go when spring training gets underway in about three weeks.
“Each offseason is different. You learn and grow in different ways,” Swanson said. “Being able to get back into a normal routine has been really nice for me. It has allowed me to do some more things and help improve myself in a bunch of different facets.
“I hold myself to a high standard. To see continued improvement throughout my career is positive. I’m getting to the point in my career where it isn’t just learning. It’s a lot of understanding. There’s some application that goes into it. It’s being able to put to work what you are learning.”
However, it took getting some new teammates to completely allow Swanson to finally put the way 2019 ended behind him. The Braves signed starting pitcher Cole Hamels, reliever Will Smith and power-hitting outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
“The offseason just got started in a lull, but once I started working out again, it was like, ‘OK, here we go,’” Swanson said. “It was still tough, but when we started signing some of the guys, you could get this newfound excitement. It was like the organization as a whole had turned the page for this past season, so it almost gave us permission to do the same thing.
“I’m excited about this next season.”