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Normally, this type of article would have no significance whatsoever. However, since it happens to be about my father, I just thought I'd share, FWIW:


A savior for the stars

By Joe Capozzi

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In January, 90 minutes before the New York Baseball Writers Dinner, Hanley Ramirez was in full panic mode. No, the Marlins' shortstop wasn't getting anxious about the very real possibility of being named the NL Rookie of the Year.

The problem was a potential wardrobe malfunction — Ramirez's tux hadn't arrived at his Hilton Hotel room and he wasn't about to attend baseball's version of Oscar Night without the proper attire.

"I said if they don't have a suit for me, I'm not going to go,'' Ramirez recently recalled. "Everybody else had suits. I'm not going to wear (just) a shirt.''

One phone call later, it was Ken Swarthout to the rescue. Again.

"Kenny,'' as he is known in baseball circles, is a 61-year-old devoted husband and father with a love for the game. He runs Leisure Travel, a New Jersey-based agency that does much more than book Atlantic City junkets and Mediterranean cruises.

For the past 22 years, his agency has arranged flights, lodging and security for some of baseball's most high-profile events — from Mets fantasy camps and Rawlings Gold Glove ceremonies to Hall of Fame induction weekend.

When it comes to pleasing baseball legends past and present, there's no task too small for Kenny. He once helped Johnny Podres replace shoes that were too small. He arranged to replace a too-tight Nicole Miller jacket for Joe DiMaggio. He even persuaded a sportswriter to loan his pants to Warren Spahn when the pair ordered for the pitcher was too short.

And on Jan. 28, he loaned his own shiny black tux to

St. Louis star David Eckstein, who wasn't the only shortstop whose duds weren't delivered that night.

"David's was closer in size to me, but it was still two sizes too big,'' Swarthout said with a laugh. "I ended up in sneakers, a button-down blue shirt and some slacks. It was fine.''

As for Ramirez, the tux place is usually reliable, Swarthout told Ramirez's agent, Andy Mota, but no worries. A quick call from Kenny to one of his connections and Ramirez was in a cab speeding to a Men's Wearhouse in Midtown.

Ramirez picked out a black suit and made it back to the Hilton in time to accept his trophy with a moving speech, including a tearful thank you to former Marlins manager Joe Girardi.

To top off the night, he got to keep the emergency duds.

"It was like that old ad on the wall at Ebbets Field: 'Hit the sign, win a suit,''' Swarthout said. "Well, Hanley got to keep the suit.''

Ramirez won't soon forget Kenny. "That guy was nice. He was great.''

It was just another clutch performance for Kenny. He has found golf clubs just before tee time for Duke Snider. He wrote a last-minute presentation speech for Hank Aaron, using one of his son's Carlos Delgado baseball cards so Hammerin' Hank had accurate stats when presenting his namesake award to Delgado.

One time, he had Mark Grace's Gold Glove Award shipped to the home of the Cubs' first baseman after Grace forgot it in his hotel room.

"I went up to his room and I didn't realize the baseballs on the trophy were loose. Two baseballs go rolling under the bed. Here I am at 1 a.m. trying to put the trophy back together,'' Swarthout said.

Swarthout said he doesn't ask for anything in return from the many baseball stars he's helped, but there was one time when he couldn't resist.

He plays in a men's senior baseball league that was started by Steve Sigler, whose daughter, Jamie-Lynn, plays Tony Soprano's daughter, Meadow, in The Sopranos. One night, during a hitting slump, Swarthout found himself alongside Yankees stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

"It was probably 1 a.m.," Swarthout said. "We were waiting there for their car to come and I said, 'I'm having the toughest time hitting the inside fastball.' They were nice enough to give me some tips.''

One of Swarthout's all-time favorite moments came when he was escorting Roger Clemens to a function.

"The elevator stops at one floor. The doors open and there's a father and his two sons. They're wearing Red Sox jerseys. They just stand there with their mouths open.

''The doors closed and Roger turns to me (sarcastically), 'Do you think they recognized me?' I told him, 'No, I think it was me.' Roger had a good laugh.''

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