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Barring one of Atlanta’s frequent apocalyptic traffic jams, it takes about 20 minutes to drive the 10 miles between Marietta High School and Truist Park. It’s the distance the Atlanta Braves' Dansby Swanson has traveled in his baseball career, but it’s so much more than just mileage.
Swanson, who hit a game-tying home run on Saturday night to spark what would end up becoming a winning rally over the Houston Astros, spent all of his early days on or around an Atlanta-area ball field. The youngest of three children, little brother to two athletes, Swanson was the kid lurking just outside the fence line, bouncing a tennis ball off the dugout wall, staring in awe at the older kids striding the baseball fields like giants. Every day, he dreamed he’d make the big plays just like them.
“I'm probably the definition of ball is life,” he said after the Game 4 win. “I grew up on a baseball field … I've played that [World Series-winning moment] over and over and over again in my head a million times, whether it was for this team or just in this moment in general.”
Visualize, then execute. Swanson did both. A standout at Marietta, where he lettered in both baseball and basketball for three years, Swanson originally was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2012 MLB draft.
He opted to go to Vanderbilt instead, where he won the College World Series and played alongside future teammate Kyle Wright and future Dodger opponent Walker Buehler. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected him first overall in the 2015 MLB draft, and dealt him to the Braves later that year.
“It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” Swanson told Fox on the field after the game. “Being here, being able to see my family as much as I do, seeing my nephews grow up … it’s truly a blessing to be in this city.”
Swanson debuted with the Braves in 2016, and quickly established himself as one of the team’s most visible and outgoing stars. For a kid who grew up idolizing Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and the rest of the Braves’ ‘90s and ‘00s legends, it was one of many dreams that would come true beyond all realistic expectation.
“I cherish every moment here, whether it's now or a random day in July,” said Swanson, who proclaimed himself a “diehard Falcons fan, diehard Hawks fan, obviously a diehard Braves fan.”
“I'm just thankful to be here.”
He’s grown into his role, and he’s never had a more important moment than the bottom of the seventh inning on Saturday night. With the Braves down to their final eight outs in Game 4, down a run to Houston and in danger of seeing their series knotted up at two apiece, Swanson swung and missed two straight sliders. He fouled off a third slider, then turned on a four-seam fastball, sending it just over the brick edge of the right-field wall. He lifted his right arm in exultation as he rounded second base, Braves fans cheering on one of their own.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 31, 2021
Swanson’s homer tied the score at 2 apiece, and Jorge Soler’s follow-up blast was the margin of victory the Braves needed. The two shots marked just the third instance of game-tying and go-ahead back-to-back home runs in the World Series — after Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager in 1981, and a couple guys named Ruth and Gehrig in 1928.
“Baseball's been around a long time,” Swanson said, “and for this to be the third time is pretty special.”
“I've been waiting for Dansby to do a Dansby-esque type thing,” Snitker said after the game. “The kid likes the moment, I know that. He has for as long as he's been here.”
“That moment, it means a lot. It really does,” Swanson said. “I have family here at the game. I have my best friends that I grew up with here at the game. It's a special moment, and it's really hard to put into words.”
Swanson admitted that the weight of this night hasn’t truly caught up with him yet, and it might not for weeks or months. (“It's kind of hard to wrap your mind around what just happened. Maybe if you would ask me in spring training next year, I might be able to give you a little bit of a better answer.”) For now, though, he’s got one last task: to bring the city of Atlanta a championship that it hasn’t won since he was one year old.
“There's still a lot left to be written,” Swanson said. “We need to go out and continue to compete to put ourselves in that position to give this city what it's been longing for.”
Most of the baseball dreams Dansby Swanson dreamed all those years ago as a kid have already become reality. The biggest one could be only a few more hours away.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.