Swetland, popular Champion City Kings player, dies after car accident

Jett Swetland, a popular player for the Champion City Kings for three seasons, died Monday, three days after a car accident that resulted in the deaths of two other University of Mount Olive (N.C.) students.

Swetland played first base for the Kings in 2016, 2017 and 2019. He became a fan favorite for Springfield’s wooden bat summer collegiate baseball team.

“He had a smile about him that was infectious,” Kings assistant coach Mark Lucas said Tuesday. “It brought people to him. He was just that kind of kid. He was just all heart and loved people and loved playing for the Kings. He loved his teammates. He was always the first one to the ball park and would do anything in the world for you. If you asked him to go out and pick up the litter behind the outfield fence, he was the kind of kid who would go do that. If we asked him to play first base for two innings and then go in the outfield, whatever it was, I never once heard him say, ‘Nah, I don’t think I want to do that, or I’m too hot or too tired.’ He was just a kid who gave and gave and gave.”

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The accident happened near the university in Mount Olive, N.C. Swetland, who’s from Sparta, Ohio, northeast of Columbus, was a business management major and former baseball player at the school. According to reports, Swetland was in a jeep with six women’s lacrosse players that failed to yield at an intersection and was hit by a tractor-trailer.

Mount Olive freshman Madison Mergl and sophomore Ann Wray died at the scene. Five others, including Swetland, were taken to the hospital. The University of Mount Olive announced Swetland’s death on Monday morning.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Swetland family at this time, and for the many difficult days ahead,” said Dr. Ed Croom, the university’s president, in a statement.

Kings General Manager Ginger Fulton said Swetland was one of the few players to spend three seasons with the team. She said there have been maybe one or two others who have played that long.

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“He loved Springfield,” Fulton said. “He loved coming over here. He loved our fans, and our fans loved him. He was a really likeable young man. He was certainly a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. I know after baseball, he was headed back to work his family farm. That’s what he was really looking forward to doing. It’s just very sad. The accident was very tragic, and our heart goes out to all the other victims.”

Swetland played for the Kings twice during the summer while he was a student at Mount Olive, a Division II school. He came back to the Kings last summer after graduating. Swetland and Lucas still talked at least once a month since the end of last season.

“He had aspirations of maybe hooking on with an Independent League team,” Lucas said. “He was just a great kid, baseball aside. I never had any kids of my own. He was a son that I never had. It was more than a coach-player relationship. I got very close to the kid.”

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