Nick Swisher leaves Indians camp after mom dies

David Brown
Big League Stew

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Whatever Nick Swisher might need from the Cleveland Indians, manager Terry Francona said, he's got it.

Swisher has left Indians camp for Ohio after the death of his mother, Lillian Marie Malizia, earlier in the week. Malizia had been treated for leukemia the past three years. She was 62 years old.

Swisher, who signed a four-year, $56 million free-agent contract in the offseason, missed the Indians' first full-squad workout of the season Friday. It was the same day the team introduced Michael Bourn, who agreed to a late-but-lucrative contract earlier this week. Their acquisitions, along with the hiring of Francona, have made for the most exciting offseason in Cleveland in a long time. But a complete look will have to wait until Swisher returns to camp — either Sunday or Monday, Francona said. A private family service for Malizia is scheduled for this weekend.

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"I told him, 'It's up to you.' Whatever he wants to do, 'just let me know,' " Francona said. "He just wanted to go about his own business without being treated differently [than any other player]. We respect that."

Swisher's life has been impacted by cancer before.

His paternal grandmother, Betty Lorraine Swisher, died from brain cancer in 2005. She helped raise Nick in his teens after his parents divorced, and was so close with him that Swisher tattooed her initials on his chest. Swisher became active in cancer charities when she got sick. In 2007, Swisher grew his hair improbably long and his dad, former major leaguer Steve Swisher, snipped it off before an Oakland Athletics game for a Locks of Love-type charity. And Swisher usually, if not always, participates in Major League Baseball's breast cancer awareness days each Mother's Day. Pink bats, pink cleats — whatever — Swisher has been visible.

Swisher didn't inherit his athletic abilities only from his father. According to an obituary published in the Columbus Dispatch, Malizia was a noted gymnast, ice skater and dancer. She also was a big sports fan, particularly of the Ohio State football team. And she loved her Boxer dogs.

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Swisher and his wife, Joanna Garcia, are expecting a baby girl in May. It's not clear from her obituary if Malizia had any grandchildren.

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