by ADAM GRUENEWALD
While the summer has drawn to a close, a brothers’ baseball bond will be carried by Tim and Tyler Swanson well into the future.
Tim Swanson pitched and caught for the Cologne Hollanders while Tyler caught for Norwood Indians this past season and both are attending school this fall, Tyler at St. Cloud State and Tim at Hennepin Tech.
Baseball is the favorite sport for the brothers, who grew up playing the sport and developing their skills with their older brother, Tony, with parents Barb and Mick guiding them. All three brothers wrestled and played baseball and football at Central High School, but baseball remains their favorite.
One of the biggest reasons is their dad, who played baseball and softball for Cologne for over 15 years, providing plenty of guidance and examples for his sons growing up. Since then, he has become their biggest fan.
“That was probably our biggest motivation to do good in sports because he goes to every single one of our games,” said Tim of his dad. “Even if our teams are bad, he’s there… There’s been games when there are two fans there, him and the guy running the scoreboard. He’s always there.”
Another key factor was all the practice they put in the backyard, and still do, leading to a lot of dead grass.
“My parents always used to get mad,” said Tim, who was usually the catcher. “We used to sit out in the back yard and throw curve balls, throw knuckleballs and see whose was always better.”
When he was younger, Tim, the youngest of the three, would catch every game, loving the opportunity to be involved in every play and control the tempo.
Tim developed some arm troubles and took it easy entering high school, but resumed catching his junior year at Central in 2011 when the Raiders catcher Robin Hattershide, who caught for Hamburg this past season, got hurt. Tim then pitched and played first base his senior year.
Given the opportunity for Norwood, Tim leapt at the chance to catch again.
“I like to do it,” he said. “I did it when I was younger and I kind of got out of it. Kind of missed it a little bit.”
A similar situation arose for Tyler, a 2010 Central graduate, who primarily played infield in high school.
“I got to town team and they needed a guy who could catch, and I said ‘I’ll try it’ and it worked out like that,” he said.
Tyler adapted well to the new position with help from Tim, but there were some challenges.
“Just adjusting to the different pitchers because every pitcher throws differently,” he said. “Every pitcher likes to throw their fastball in different situations, their curveball in different situations. More or less it’s adjusting to the pitchers.”
As a pitcher, Tim said he has a greater appreciation for catchers, understanding the difficulty of the position.
“Even when you pitch, you can tell when someone who’s never caught before catches you,” he said. “They don’t know what you throw, how you throw. When you have a catcher that catches you all the time and knows your pitches they can set up and it’s just a completely different ball game. Good catchers make bad pitchers better pitchers because they know what to throw, who to throw and when to throw.”
While on different teams this past season, the brothers still rooted for one another, keeping track of statistics, constantly wanting to be better than the other one.
“It just kind of drives you to be better at your position,” said Tim. “It’s fun to play against each other. When we play Cologne, he comes up to bat and you can throw dirt at ‘em.”
That rivalry has kept the brothers competing hard since they both said they don’t take it easy when their teams play each other.
“In between the lines I play him like I play anybody else,” said Tyler. “Once the final out is made and once the games cooled off I go over and talk to him. When the games on it’s 110 percent.”
“You can definitely tell he’s playing for Cologne and I’m playing for Norwood,” said Tim. “There are no favorites. You’re going for your team and you want your team to win. You don’t want their team to win. It’s more of a pride thing than anything else. Just have the better team.”
Both Tyler and Tim said they want to eventually play on the same team, as they have done a few times before, like a youth metro traveling team, a softball tournament team with their dad during Glad Days, wrestling or on the high school football team.
The brothers had a significant impact on the Raiders’ kicking game since older brother Tony started snapping for varsity as a freshman, leading to nine years when the brothers were snapping for Central. Tyler also punted, did extra points and was the holder, receiving snaps from Tim.
Their dad, a former long snapper, started the tradition and couldn’t be prouder.
“It was just one of things,” he said. “We had a spot in the yard where we knew where 12 yards was.”
Now dad couldn’t be happier watching his sons play baseball or just being active outdoors, hunting, fishing or spending time on Lake Waconia in their off time.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s neat to see them. When they do good it’s neat to cheer and when they don’t do so good or don’t have too much success, as long as they’re enjoying themselves it’s fun.”
Looking ahead to next season, Tyler will again don the Hollander orange while Tim will return to his Norwood team next year.
“It’s just a good rivalry,” said Tim. “I’m sure within the next couple of years we will play together. As for now I’m just playing with my friends and having a good time.”
While staying competitive is a key factor in their desire to keep playing, Tyler said he gets extra motivation for playing for his hometown.
“There’s a sense of pride and people that you know from town that you grew up with come to games and say ‘nice job’ or ‘nice hit,’” said Tyler. “That really means something if someone from out of town sees a nice baseball park or a nice baseball field. It’s America’s pastime so I think a lot of people like to sit down and watch a baseball game. It’s a very American thing to do.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]