CLEVELAND -- It did not take long for JoAnna Garcia Swisher to know that Cleveland is where she wanted her husband to play baseball for the next few years. One look at that little blue baby jersey -- complete with the Swisher name and No. 33 stitched on the back -- hanging inside the team's family room was all it took.
The Indians had the personalized newborn outfit on display during the Swishers' free-agent visit to Progressive Field in December. At this point in their lives, with a daughter due before the end of May and a desire to settle down to focus on their family, Nick and JoAnna decided to make their home in Cleveland.
"It really felt like the common theme was family," Garcia said. "I really felt that. It was always my first choice to be here."
On this Mother's Day, roughly six weeks into Swisher's first season with the Indians, their decision to join the Tribe has only been reinforced. For this next chapter, they have traded in the big city lifestyle of New York for a house with a yard in a Cleveland suburb. The sounds of honking cars and sirens have been replaced by a group of baby ducks that often waddle through their backyard.
None of this is to say that the Swishers were not swayed in Cleveland's direction by the four-year, $56 million contract (a deal that could extend to $70 million over five years) that the first baseman signed to suit up for the team. With that pact, Swisher instantly became the energetic face and voice of a franchise that is trying to change its image and fortunes.
That said, Swisher weighed his options closely with his growing family in mind.
"We had to take in all factors," Swisher said. "My wife and I, this was our decision. We've never had a major decision like this before. For us to have that opportunity to set yourself up for -- we were thinking in our minds maybe it'd be a five-, six-, seven-year deal -- whatever we were going to get. It worked out and we came here.
"The family atmosphere that they had, the red carpet that they rolled out for us, I mean, I could go through a list of I don't know how many things that are the reasons we came here. We've got a beautiful home here. Our neighborhood is amazing. Everyone here has been so nice to us. It's been so great.
"It's that next chapter in our life for Jo and I. We're so excited to be parents. We talk to the little girl every night. We're just excited to meet her now."
Another aspect of the move that appealed to Garcia, who has acted in a variety of movies and television shows, was that Swisher was coming home in a way. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and he was raised in Parkersburg, W.Va., which is located just across the southeast Ohio border. Swisher played baseball at Ohio State University, and his dad, former big leaguer Steve Swisher, played for Ohio University.
With his Ohio roots, Swisher has been an immediate hit with Cleveland's fan base.
"I knew we were coming home in a sense for Nick," Garcia said. "And that felt really warm and lovely. And I've never felt so incredibly embraced and taken care of, from the organization to the incredible wives to Nick being embraced by all of his teammates.
"It's really been this theme here about family, and it couldn't be more fitting at this special moment in our lives."
Swisher, who is excited about jumping head-first into fatherhood, added that he has enjoyed seeing so many of his teammates' sons inside the clubhouse this season.
"It seems like everybody on this team has little kids," Swisher said. "Any time a little kid comes in the locker room, that was me growing up. That was me."
Of course, the Swishers are having a daughter.
"Oh, she ain't coming in here, bro!" Swisher said before bursting into laughter.
"He's already gone straight to imagining her dating," Garcia said of her husband. "He's already in a panic."
That is years down the road.
First, Little Miss Swish will need to squeeze inside that small jersey by July, when all the Indians' wives and kids will be getting together.
"I think the Swisher jersey is going to have to be broken out on family day," Garcia said.