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O Captains My Captains: Swinford and D’Alessandro Lead Cohesive Group in Ivy Title Chase
Captains Ben Swinford and Tom D’Alessandro (pictured in center) find it easy to lead a team already full of leaders.
On a team full of captains, two seniors who fill the left side of the infield rise to the top of the crop in the eyes of their teammates and coaches: third baseman Ben Swinford, now a two-time captain, and shortstop Tom D’Alessandro. Both of these leaders had experience as captains going back to their playing days in high school, but at this time and level of play, both Swinford and D’Alessandro admit that the role is a little bit different. “We’re pretty fortunate that there are a lot of leaders on the team, so we kind of walked into an easy role… we take more of a managing leadership-type perspective,” as Swinford noted that the chemistry on the team allows him and D’Alessandro to be less hands-on as leaders and delegate leadership roles throughout the locker room.
When asked about the difference between being a junior captain and a senior captain, Swinford noted that there is a different feel given the discrepancies between the 2013 roster and the 2014 one, but does not feel any different about his responsibility as the captain.
Added D’Alessandro about the now two-time captain: “He’s like the elder… the wise one,” drawing a laugh from the senior third baseman who has contributed significantly to the team in each of his four years playing for Cornell. Perhaps unsurprisingly when asked about what the title of captain means to him, D’Alessandro expressed similar emotion in regards to holding the honor that comes with the title: “I always take pride in being a leader whether I’m elected a leader or not. It’s a privilege to be elected by your peers and your coaches… you always want to be doing the right thing.. and now I see myself trying to mentor the freshmen and underclassmen to show them the right way to do things.”
Remembering that we’re at Cornell, Industrial and Labor Relations major D’Alessandro and Engineering major Swinford weighed in on how their particular curricula and focuses have been intertwined with their baseball and leadership roles at Cornell. The starting shortstop conveyed that it isn’t his education that has the effect on baseball, but vice versa: “I’ve applied the stuff that I’ve learned from other captains from the past two years…and now I feel more comfortable talking in front of groups. I’ve taken what I’ve done with the team and been able to present ideas and talk in front of classes with ease.” That’s not to say that his in-class experience hasn’t had an impact as well. He reflected that through his ILR experience, D’Alessandro has learned that “there are different ways to approach different types of individuals, depending on their personalities.” Swinford added that as an Engineering major, he is able to mentor the many other engineering majors on the team and help them find a balance between the particularly rigorous engineering workload and their time and energy commitment to the team.
Perhaps most impressive about the elected leaders of the 2014 squad is that they recognize how much importance the team plays as a whole in providing leadership and camaraderie. Both Swinford and D’Alessandro were quick to mention that the entire junior and senior class, especially members of the pitching staff, are great resources for the younger players to reach out to, and no big team decision is ever made by one or two people, but “the board” of juniors and seniors who lead the way both on and off the field. At the end of the day, the Cornell baseball team can take pride in knowing that its leaders trust the pieces they have and rely on contributions from everyone to lead to overall success. Jokingly said Swinford, “they make us look better; we just take the credit.”
The captains look to lead the charge this weekend and build upon their 2-1 start to the season, as they’ll travel to George Washington University for a 4-game set in the nation’s capital.