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Dansby Swanson helps hometown Braves win World Series: 'The good Lord, He's blessed me so much'

Dansby Swanson was a year old the last time the Atlanta Braves won a World Series. All he could dream about while growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta was winning a World Series with his favorite team.

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That dream came true Tuesday night in Houston, as Swanson and the Braves knocked off the Houston Astros, 7-0, to win their first World Series since 1995 and the fourth in franchise history. Swanson delivered a two-run home run in the fifth inning and, fittingly, recorded the final out on a ground ball from Yuli Gurriel that he tossed to Freddie Freeman at first base.

“Destiny, I guess,” Swanson told FOX Sports after the game of getting to be in on the clinching out. “The good Lord, He’s blessed me so much. I wouldn’t be here without Him. Just the peace that He gives me, it’s remarkable. Especially in moments like this, you can never go wrong trusting in that. I’m just so thankful to be here.”

Swanson came up big for the Braves several times throughout the series, including a game-tying home run in Game 4, which was immediately followed by a go-ahead solo home run by Jorge Soler that gave the Braves a 3-2 win and a 3-1 lead in the series.

In Game 6, Swanson’s two-run shot came two innings after Soler hit a towering three-run home run to put the Braves on the board. Freeman added an RBI double and a solo home run to make it 7-0 and ice the game away, while starting pitcher Max Fried delivered six shutout innings on the mound.

If not for Soler’s three home runs in the series, Swanson may have had a case for World Series Most Valuable Player, as the shortstop made several nifty plays for key outs as well as what he did at the plate.

It was exactly what the Braves envisioned when they acquired Swanson in 2015, and it was the ultimate answer to the pressure he’s felt ever since he arrived.

After a standout college career at Vanderbilt, Swanson was selected No. 1 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 MLB Draft. Less than six months later, the Diamondbacks traded him to his hometown team.

He was seen as the face of Atlanta’s rebuild and was immediately met with high expectations. All the while, he was trying to digest why the team that drafted him had seemingly given up on him so quickly.

“I’m just so thankful to be here right now. I really can’t say it enough,” Swanson told FOX Sports following Game 4. “Getting traded over here, at the time, I didn’t really understand it. But God’s always got a plan, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s having faith in that plan will never fail you. It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

He’s had his struggles at times in Atlanta, and batting last in the order isn’t exactly what he or the team envisioned for him. But Swanson responded the past two years by posting some of his best numbers, including 10 home runs and 35 runs batted in during a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He also delivered a home run in Game 7 of the 2020 NL Championship Series, which the Braves ultimately lost to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

He followed that up with a career-high 27 home runs and 88 RBIs this season while playing a career-high 160 games.

This all came during a season in which Swanson recalibrated his relationship with God and prioritized his mental health.

He said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast before this season that it simply came down to him trusting in God and giving his worries to Him.

“If anything, the lesson that I’ve learned was that you can’t go wrong trusting and growing closer to God,” Swanson said. “Whatever way that works for you is what works for you. But spend time with God. Legitimately spend time in the words that He wrote through people that were on this earth. Spend time in prayer and meditation and silence. Do these things to grow near to Him.

“I really started to feel His presence more, and I really started to feel more comfortable with the callings and stuff that He’s put on my heart.”

Swanson also received some advice from Brooks Webb, who serves as the general manager and chief of staff for the Vanderbilt baseball team. Webb told him his best career year would come after his best year spiritually.

“That really stuck with me, because this [past] year was my best year, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it’s because of how much my spiritual life had grown,” Swanson said of his 2020 season.

There’s no doubt the Braves’ title means a lot to the city of Atlanta, which has come frustratingly close to titles a number of times in recent years and fallen short. But it’s extra sweet for Swanson, who, by now living in Atlanta, is able to see his family more, watch his nephews grow up, and it’s where he met his girlfriend, U.S. women’s soccer player Mallory Pugh.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it — I’m an Atlanta lifer,” he said following the World Series win. “I live and die the city of Atlanta, and there’s no place that deserves it more than the city of Atlanta. Being raised there, growing up there, having roots there. I mean, I’ve got my family here, my best friends are here, the love of my life Mallory is here. I can’t even put into words how much this means — not for me, but for this entire organization and the entire city.”

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