Why pursuing a championship with the Cubs means ‘the world’ to Dansby Swanson

The Cubs introduced All-Star Dansby Swanson as their new shortstop on Wednesday.

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Dansby Swanson’s affinity for the Cubs began with his grandfather Herb.

Growing up outside of Atlanta, Swanson would stop by Herb’s house — which was across the yard from Swanson’s family home — every day after school. He’d run right in to “pretty much demand” that Herb come outside to hit him ground balls.

As Swanson burst through the door, he could expect the familiar hum of a baseball broadcast. Herb always had the TV tuned to a Cubs game.

The Swansons rooted for the home-team Braves, a fact young Dansby made sure to remind his “Pops” of. But Herb loved baseball in general, and the Cubs were available nationally on WGN.

“Having won a championship in Atlanta for one of his favorite teams,” Swanson said Wednesday in his Cubs introductory news conference, “we just felt that the Cubs, which were his second-favorite team, that bringing a championship to this city was what we had felt called to do.”

The Cubs made Swanson’s signing official Wednesday. His seven-year deal is worth $177 million, a source confirmed over the weekend when the parties agreed to terms. Right away, Swanson made it clear that he wouldn’t be donning blue pinstripes if he didn’t think that championship he mentioned was within reach.

“It was very clear that winning was the priority,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said of the team’s meeting with Swanson in Atlanta. “[It’s] so incredibly appealing as you’re sitting there thinking, this guy’s reputation is as such a winner, and that’s what he’s focused on.”

Swanson is a big piece in the Cubs’ efforts to open their next championship window. But he wanted to hear more. Who else were they going to add? Which prospects were on the cusp? What is their organizational philosophy? How are they going to make him better?

After their meeting in Atlanta, Swanson set up a call with general manager Carter Hawkins during the winter meetings this month. Hawkins is also from Georgia and played baseball with Swanson’s older brother when they were kids, and he went to Vanderbilt like Swanson.

‘‘I left that conversation feeling better than going into it, honestly,” Swanson said. “I know that he would shoot me straight because [Vanderbilt] coach [Tim] Corbin would probably kill both of us if we were lying to each other.”

Swanson also called current and former Cubs such as Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Joc Pederson for their input. He took note of the team’s 39-31 second half last season and saw it as something to build off of.

The Cubs sent Swanson a video about Jon Lester’s decision to sign with the team ahead of the 2015 season. It outlined the parallels between that year and the position the Cubs are in now, Swanson said. And Lester explained the “leap of faith,” as Swanson put it, that he made to join the team that would win the World Series two years later.

Swanson was the last of the Big 4 free-agent shortstops to agree to terms on a contract this winter — although Carlos Correa went through the process again this week with the Mets. Swanson had major life events at least partially affecting the timing of his decision.

Swanson and Mallory Pugh, a Red Stars and U.S. women’s national team forward, were married Dec. 10.

The next day, they received terrible news. Herb, Swanson’s grandfather, wasn’t doing well. They rushed to his senior-living facility. Herb died later that day.

Swanson fought back tears Wednesday as he reminisced about those after-school fielding sessions with his grandpa, giving him grief about having the Cubs game on.

“I’ve pretty much mentioned to everyone, being a Cub means more to me than people would realize,” Swanson said. “To be able to play for my grandfather’s two favorite teams means literally the world to me.”

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