The Warpath

MHS’ Diamond in the Rough


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BY JON HANLEY

For some high school students, such as those at Moeller, seeing an alumni on a baseball card may not be a big deal. But for Mariemont, opening up a pack of cards to find 2012 graduate Erik Swanson is enough to set the whole town abuzz.

The Texas Rangers’ selected Swanson in the 8th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, which wasn’t much of a surprise to the former Warrior pitcher.

Go to http://www.gosportscards.com/2014-spokane-indians-erik-swanson.html to see the MHS alum’s minor league rookie card.

Click here to see the MHS alum’s minor league rookie card (PHOTO BY GOSPORTSCARDS.COM)

“I had an idea of the teams who were scouting me and I knew the Texas Rangers were one of them,” the right-hander said via phone interview. “I had actually been in contact with a local scout so I knew they were pretty interested.”

Surprise or not, this year’s 246th overall pick of a total 1215 marked a rarity for MHS.

“Only a handful of our players have ever been given this opportunity, so it’s a pretty big deal,” said Mariemont Athletic Director Tom Nerl. He confirmed that Swanson is the first MHS alum to be selected in at least twenty-five years.

“I had talked to Erik before the draft and knew he was supposed to go in that range,” he continued. Nerl coached Swanson when he stepped in as temporary head coach of the baseball team during Swanson’s junior year.

After being selected, the Rangers assigned Swanson to the Spokane Indians, located in the state of Washington. The A-level minor league organization plays in the Northwest league.

The MHS graduate made it out to Spokane in time to appear in 15 games, record 24 strikeouts, and post an ERA (earned run average per 9-inning game) of 4.63 over 23.1 innings.

“I thought I had a decent first year, but I have a lot of improving to do,” said Swanson. “I look forward to seeing all the hours of work I’ve put into my game unfold in spring training.”

In the off-season, Swanson aims to work on a few mechanical adjustments in his pitching motion. He also hopes to further develop his change-up, which would be a great asset to his fastball.

After graduating in 2012, Swanson originally planned to play two years of junior college baseball, and then if he played well, transfer to a bigger program like the University of Pittsburg.

Swanson proved a transfer wasn’t necessary, as his sophomore season at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, proved to be his break out. The former Warrior finished 2014 with a 10-1 record and an ERA  of 2.39. He also led the team with 97 strikeouts, averaging 11.05 per 9-inning game, all the while leading the Reivers to a NJCAA Division I championship.

Swanson stands between his former principle, Dr. Jim Renner (left), and his former coach and current Mariemont Athletic Director, Tom Nerl. This picture was taken in June, shortly after the MLB Draft. (PHOTO BY MARIEMONTSCHOOLS.ORG)

AP European History teacher and assistant baseball coach, Mike Hanley (no relation to the author) worked with Swanson during his three seasons on varsity. “In the ten years I’ve been here, Erik is the first player I’ve coached to be drafted.” says Hanley. “It’s pretty special.”

All of the coaches in the baseball program knew Erik had potential from the beginning. According to Nerl, Swanson had all the physical assets by his sophomore year, and had already grown into a pitcher’s frame. “He always had power, too, he was bringing up eye-opening numbers on the radar gun before he even knew how to pitch. I remember him throwing as fast as 85 mph when he was a junior.”

Hanley remembers a practice during Swanson’s senior year where the right-hander hit 91 mph on the radar gun. However, this wasn’t what ultimately convinced him of Swanson’s legitimacy as a pitcher.

“One time at the beginning of his senior season Erik was throwing live in the cage, and all of the sudden he just unleashed an out of this world slider that had to have dropped at least three feet. Coach Regruth and I just looked at each other like, ‘this kid is the real deal.’”

Hanley and Nerl both recalled a time when the present head coach, Joe Regruth, said regarding Swanson, “I know there’s 90 mph in that body, we just have to find it.”

Hanley believes that Swanson’s transformation came off the field just as much as it did on the mound. “It was really interesting watching him grow up during his junior year,” he said. That year Hanley taught Swanson in his U.S. History class as well as on the baseball team. “He really matured and changed his work ethic. He always had the pieces to be a successful person, on and off the field, and during his junior year he just put them together.”

“The light went on. I knew this kid had a chance,” Hanley continued.

Swanson is equally appreciative of the coaches he has left behind at Mariemont High School.  “All of the coaches I had the privilege of working with over my high-school career helped me so much. Coach Hanley, Coach Joe [Regruth], and Coach Nerl,” said Swanson.

He continued, “Mariemont was a great four years and I look forward to come back every chance I get to say hello to all the great teachers and coaches I spent those years around.”

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