How Dansby Swanson’s leadership evolved through his first half-season with the Cubs

Swanson was named an All-Star but won’t make the trip to Seattle while on the IL.

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The Cubs’ Christopher Morel, rear, is congratulated by Dansby Swanson after hitting a home run against the Giants on June 10.

The Cubs’ Christopher Morel, rear, is congratulated by Dansby Swanson after hitting a home run against the Giants on June 10.

Jeff Chiu/AP

NEW YORK — In the Angel Stadium visitors’ clubhouse last month, Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson and first baseman Trey Mancini were engrossed in conversation at their neighboring lockers. Swanson stood and imitated Mancini’s batting stance, exaggerating his hip hinge through contact.

“He was asking me, ‘Whenever you’re going really well, what are you thinking?’ ” Mancini said. “ ‘What’s your body doing?’ That sort of thing.”

Swanson wanted to know Mancini’s cues so that when he was feeling off, Swanson would have feedback to give him.

“His leadership qualities and attention to detail have really stood out,” manager David Ross said last month. “The impact he’s making around the diamond and in the clubhouse has been really evident.”

Swanson earned his second All-Star selection in as many seasons, but he won’t be heading to Seattle this week. He’s on the 10-day injured list with a bruised left heel. As the Cubs rallied to beat the Yankees 7-4 on Sunday to secure the series win, all he could do was try to find little ways to contribute from the sideline.

The Cubs’ biggest signing since tearing down their championship core, Swanson describes his leadership style as “servant leadership” — making sure he’s available for his teammates and supporting them however he can. A keen observer can pick out some of those moments, like when he joins the pitcher and catcher for mound visits or offers encouragement in a team huddle.

In the last month, he has settled in and noticed a growth in the vocal aspect of his leadership.

Swanson would have those kinds of sharing-hitting-cues conversations with his former Braves teammates all the time. But he’d also been in that organization since months after he was drafted in 2015.

“You can’t rush good relationships,” he said. “It just takes time to build.”

With the Cubs, Swanson has been big on talking hitting since arriving in spring training, but he’s not the kind of guy to interject advice right off the bat.

“I’m an extrovert, right?” he said in a recent conversation with the Sun-Times. “I can have a conversation. But inside, I’m very shy. And with the transition in coming here and [having] new teammates, I’ve been very shy for the first two months of the season. But during that time, I do a lot of watching and observing.”

Between that and asking questions, he has started to figure out what makes his teammates tick.

“Recently, I’ve felt a lot more conviction to just talk to people and help and say, like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I say something?’ ‘Oh, no, what do you got?’ ‘OK.’ And then taking that part of my game to a different level.”

Young utility player Christopher Morel, who has cut down on his strikeouts in the last month, publicly thanked Swanson in mid-June for his advice on slowing down the game and helping him find his timing.

Some teammates Swanson had more familiarity with coming in. Outfielder Ian Happ, who was in the same draft class and has played against Swanson for years, said they were able to jump to “pretty honest conversations” quickly. They’ve hit one after the other in the lineup for much of the season.

“You have the ability to go through what you’re trying to look for, what you saw, how it went,” Happ said. “It’s a powerful thing to speak some of those things out loud and think through as you’re going through the at-bats.”

While on the injured list, in what Swanson hopes will be a minimum stint, those conversations are some of the ways for him to have an impact on the game.

Swanson doesn’t take well to sitting. In his previous two seasons with the Braves, he missed only one game.

“To be as candid as possible, it’s pretty terrible,” Swanson said Saturday with reporters gathered around his locker at Yankee Stadium. “My body already kind of feels crappy just because I’m so used to doing something every single day.”

He’s trying to embrace the change of perspective — a view from 30,000 feet, as he put it.

“And be as good of a teammate as I can and talk to guys about hitting, pitching,” he said. “Whatever they want to talk about, I’m here to help and assist with and help keep our ball rolling.”

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