Schwarber earns Futures Game MVP in happy homecoming

CINCINNATI — He knows the park well from a childhood spent 40 miles away. As a kid, Kyle Schwarber came to Cincinnati Reds games and sat in the stands of Great American Ballpark, marveling at the size of the field, the height of the upper deck and the stage of big league baseball that enchanted the boy from Middletown.

This is home, and it certainly felt that way on Sunday.

It’s where more than 100 friends and family members gathered for the 2015 MLB Futures Game to watch Schwarber, the former Indiana All-American, swing his bat like a cudgel and add yet another personal milestone to a growing list of achievements in the last year. Schwarber slugged a two-run triple, he threw out a runner trying to steal second base and he earned the Larry Doby MVP Award after helping Team USA to a 10-1 win over the World Futures before an announced sellout crowd of 43,661.

The Chicago Cubs prospect received the loudest cheers of the day, boosted by a large personal fan club and a fan base that recognized the special occasion for what it was: a celebration of a local star and civic pride.

“It was cool to be able to have friends and family out there to experience it with me,” Schwarber said. “It was a lot different (being on the field). I was like, ‘Hmmm, this place looks a lot smaller when I’m on it.’ To be honest, I like being on the field a lot better than being in the stands. Hopefully I’ll get to play here a little bit more down the road.”

That certainly appears likely given Schwarber’s initial tear through professional baseball. After the Cubs selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in last June’s Amateur Draft, Schwarber is poised to become one of the faces of a rejuvenated Chicago franchise. He made his major league debut last month, getting a cup of coffee in the big leagues when the Cubs needed a designated hitter for a week-long run through interleague play. Schwarber supplied six RBIs in six games before he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to work on his catching skills.

His stay in the minor leagues may yet prove to be a short one. Reports out of Chicago indicate Schwarber could be called back to the parent club depending on the status of catcher Miguel Montero’s injured thumb coming out of this week’s All-Star break. Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters Sunday that Schwarber would be considered as a replacement if Montero needs a stint on the 15-day disabled list.

In the meantime, Schwarber is at peace with where he stands. He’s played 147 career minor league games, which essential amounts to a full season. Over that span he has a .333 average, 34 home runs, 73 extra-base hits, 102 RBIs and an outstanding 1.042 on-base plus slugging percentage.

“It’s crazy that a year ago I was still at Indiana playing baseball and now I’ve already been to the big leagues,” Schwarber told The Herald-Times. “It’s crazy. it’s something you don’t really think about while you’re playing the game. It’s probably a good thing I don’t think about it because it keeps me focused on just baseball. It’s been a whirlwind year, but I just have to keep working hard and keep my head buried in baseball. Good things will happen.”

Just like Sunday.

Schwarber completed a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play to end the top of the first when he nabbed Seattle Mariners prospect Ketel Marte trying to steal second base. That moment was a point of pride for Schwarber, who seems tired of defending his catching skills. Whether he stays behind the plate long term remains to be seen, with some scouts reportedly critical of Schwarber’s receiving ability and his release time.

But Carl Edwards, a reliever on Schwarber’s Iowa Cubs Triple-A doesn’t buy it. Edwards, who authored a scoreless relief appearance Sunday, lauded Schwarber’s work ethic, saying no one takes the field on game days earlier than Schwarber.

“He’s working on a lot,” Edwards said. “He’s working on receiving, blocking and this and that. Overall, he’s just working hard back there. I love throwing to him. I would not put anybody else back there if it came down to it. If they ask me, ‘Who do you want back there?’ I’m going with Kyle Schwarber.”

If it feels like Schwarber has been defending his role as a catcher ever since draft day it’s because, well, he has. With that defense, Schwarber understands there is at least some validity to the criticism. Even as a junior at IU in 2014, he was raw as a backstop and didn’t have the skills to come close to matching a major league-ready bat.

So Schwarber asks for patience. He already notices a major difference in his ability to call a game and play the position compared with his final college season and where he is now. In the meantime, he says the critics can keep talking.

“It’s their opinion and that’s what they think,” Schwarber said. “My opinion is, hey, that’s my position. When people say you can’t do it, it puts a little fire under you. It puts a chip on your shoulder. It’s good. You need to have a chip on your shoulder. It makes you want to do something. When people say I can’t do something, I really do take it personal. Now, there’s that growing factor of me trying to get better at my position so that when I do play that position I’ll be good at it and not just an offensive-minded baseball catcher, but the complete offensive and defensive package.”

Although opinions on his defense vary, the consensus is that if Schwarber manages to stick at catcher he has the potential to be a superstar. While at Indiana, Schwarber proved that his Paul Bunyan frame belies his athleticism. He’s quicker and more agile than he looks, and he’s building a track record to match.

Sunday continued a fascinating trend for Schwarber, who has collected triples as his first hit at three different levels this year —Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues. The Futures Game, if you count it, would be the fourth level where Schwarber has tripled for his initial hit.

“I guess I just have a knack for triples,” Schwarber said with a grin.

He has a knack for home runs and loud hits, too. Schwarber was a polished bat coming out of Indiana last spring and he’s already building a legend for those getting to know him in pro ball.

“The ball comes off his bat with a different sound,” Edwards said. “You hear a lot of bats go, ‘whoosh,’ but his is different. I think he’s batting harder than everybody else. That’s what I tell people. It’s just nice to see. It’s really nice to see him humiliate balls.”

That’s what he did in the third inning, clubbing an 0-2 pitch into the right field corner for his two-run triple. As he stood on third base, Schwarber took in the sounds of a cheering stadium and accepted the love of a city happy to welcome him home.

“It was a great experience just being able to play in front of all my friends and family and all these people,” Schwarber said. “They’re great fans. … I grew up here, came to games a lot and being able to play on this field today was special. My eyes lit up as soon as I stepped on it.”

And with his current run of success, it may not be long before Schwarber returns for more.

48 comments

  1. Kyle, congrats on winning the Futures Game MVP award. Looking forward to seeing you back with the Cubs.

  2. Not sure what the Cubs are waiting for? I know he’s not quite ready to play catcher in the majors, but I’d bet he can play in the outfield or at first base, and come in when another left handed hitter is necessary. Perhaps the Cubs’ brain trust believes his development will be faster as an every-day player in AAA than it would be as a substitute in the majors. But given his consistent offensive production and power, you’d think they’d find a way to get him in the line-up. He certainly seems to respond well to the big stage.

  3. First base isn’t going to happen with Rizzoli there, one of the best first basemen in the league. Outfield might be where they ultimately put him. This would give him a shot at a linger career as catchers don’t last long in the MLB due to wear and tear. That is what Bryce Harper did. He was one of the best high school catchers at one time but looked long term and moved to the outfield.

  4. This is the kind of situation where Cubs fans find out how smart their GM is. If Kyle is playing in the minors a month from now the answer is ‘not very’.

  5. At the very least, he should get called up to be DH for every inter league away game the remainder of the season. And I still wonder if he is trade bate? Cubs are much improved, but they need better pitching if they want to make a run for the wildcard spot in the playoffs. I’ll bet there are teams out there that covet Schwarber’s offense at a relatively low price tag. Heck, I was watching the Angels the other night, and it’s obvious Schwarber could be the Angels’ starting catcher right now. Those two guys can’t hit water from a boat.

  6. Yeah, I didn’t necessarily mean that he be called up to the Cubs if they can’t use him due to existing personnel but, obviously, they need lots of help. However, he is a commodity that can be utilized to make the Cubs better.

    …if their GM is any good.

  7. Yes, that is the key question. Is the Cubs’ GM any good? A good run in Boston provides reason for optimism, but we’ll see what he can do with the Cubs. So far, I’m mildly optimistic. He’s being very well compensated, that’s for sure.

  8. Since the new GM came into Chicago, they have won more games every passing year. He’s really shored up the minors and now focussing on the team. All signs are positive thus far.

  9. I know the narrative is that the Cubs need pitching, but if you’ve watched them over the last month or so it’s actually been their pitching that’s kept them competitive more often than not. We’re in the thick of the Wild Card race with two positions (LF and C) that haven’t produced consistent offense for most of the year. We need a bat without mortgaging the future. If this keeps up– and we don’t tail off considerably in the standings– I think we could see Schwarber playing either of those positions in the majors well before September.

    And to all the fellow Cubs fans out there: How great is it to be able to root for a Hoosier on your favorite professional team?

  10. Every Cub fan knows seasons are usurped their thread of promise in August….

    This isn’t “The Natural,” folks… Much like IU Basketball, this is an organization that lives in world of complacency where stands will not go empty even when the level of the product/management/coaching is bush league. Losing is only a disease of the those that buy tickets for something charlatans conspire to keep their own.incompetence protected.

  11. In the spirit of Harv’s Scrooge McTrump mood, is Erin Andrews not the worst? What kind of A-hole interviews anybody… let alone the MVP post game and corrects herself saying “we… I mean I talked to the commissioner…”

    She’s awful.

  12. Ha. So it is, Chet. I joined another dying breed. (Or did I lead them into extinction?)

    Seriously, though. I was giddy about the HR Derby last night. My Cubbies didn’t fare so well, but that was the most excited I’ve been since I can remember. Thoughts?

  13. My Cubbies….? I was dying countless Cubs deaths with Brickhouse long before you have any clue the hours upon hours of heartbreak from the same summer Wrigley movie with the same ending. I knew Ernie Banks…Billy Williams. I have a sketch I drew of Fergie Jenkins still stored in a box under the bed I sleep today. I knew Bruce Sutter…I knew Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams….I chanted “Jody! Jody! Jody!” to power-hitting of Jody Davis coming to the plate….I watched the grounder that went through the legs of Leon Durham…that sent the Cubs on yet another tailspin and eventual choke against Steve Garvey’s Padres….I saw Adolpho Phillips carried off after crashing into the center field wall…I listened to Brickhouse call Ernie’s 500th home run as it barely made the basket in left-center….I saw Don Kessenger, Ivan DeJesus, and Shawon Dunston play shortstop…
    . Don’t get on here saying “My Cubbies”….That’s an insult, Punjab…That’s an insult to those that have truly felt their hearts break in two . You sound like Steve Bartman.. There really is no such thing a true Cubs fan…The last man they should have returned such devotions a claim was the great Jack Brickhouse. I would have been fine with Jack saying “My Cubbies”…But he was never an arrogant kind…He simply wore his heart on his sleeve in every at bat. There were no need for claims that love and devotion required ownership some right…..

  14. I won’t apologize for my age, Harv. What makes you think you’re a better, more deserving fan because you’ve walked the earth longer? How pretentious. I grew up watching WGN. I’m old enough to remember Harry Carrey and Steve Stone. My mom has moved and my old room belongs to some college student now, but my ’89 Cubs poster still hangs proudly in her new house. I’ve suffered through losing seasons most of my life. I’ve lived in STL since 2010, during a time when the Cards and their pretentious, haranguing fans terrorized the NL and my Cubs were mostly awful… and proudly engaged with my Cubs t-shirts downtown and Andre Dawson jersey at Busch stadium. My kids recognized the Cubs (and Hoosiers) before they knew their ABCs. I’m currently stationed in Honduras– the deadliest “peacetime” county in the world– where the gang/cartel colors are blue and white or blue and black. Do you risk your life wearing a Cubs shirt in public? I have. Because they’re my team. Tell me again how you’re insulted.

  15. And sorry, Andy. There are a lot of great, knowledgeable, respectful Cardinals fans. They fill up half of Busch, which is a great place to watch a game. The rest are mostly spoiled band-wagoners who couldn’t name a single Cardinal not named Albert, Stan, or Ozzie prior to 2011.

  16. There are a lot of great, knowledgeable, respectful Cardinals fans.

    You just lost your Cub card. And why be sorry to Andy..? He only wears that Cardinal gangster hat during ScoopTalks because it’s better than a Joe Lenardi dead black squirrel atop the slick manhole cover….But I would argue that the wearing of such hat is also a departure from journalistic objectivity and shows far too much favoritism for the Indiana Hoosiers….It’s a bit too much beating your own drum of the team your covering…Andy’s been around long enough to know the friendship between Knight and La Russa. The wearing of the Cardinal hat is Andy’s way to show his Hoosier love for the old General…It’s Andy’s way of refusing any acknowledgment the joke of a Hoosier program that no longer contains “winners.” That hat isn’t just a snub to “your Cubbies”…It’s a snub job to those that ran Bob Knight out of town and it justifies those evil looks Knight gives to Crean. Bob Knight knows winners.

    And thus we get to the biggest blemish on Bobby Knight. It is not the grabbing of Neil Reed’s neck suddenly becoming the first CNN gotcha moment for an Establishment tired of watching Knight beat the piss out of their alma maters…. or the arm of a snidely frat rat(the IU Steve Bartman) that, obviously, didn’t have a respectful household to teach an ounce of decorum. I’ve always thought the ugliness in Bob Knight’s flawed personality were magnified, brought to a point of unbearable zero tolerance of an ego too far gone, through his publicly glorified friendship with La Russa. I was willing to tolerate nearly all flaws and ugliness until I started to hear of his affiliation with the St. Louis baseball mafia.
    I probably could have even suffered through 10 years of Pat Knight as head coach if I knew I wouldn’t have to see La Russa sitting with Knight in Assembly Hall.

    You da man, Punjab.

    M

  17. I never bought into the concept of of “if you root for team x, then you must hate team y.” I don’t hate Purdue. Aside from the Glenn Robinson years, the minute the NCAA tourney begins, I’m a fan of all Big Ten teams unless they play the Hoosiers. (Trivia question that I don’t know the answer to: who’s the last Big Ten team IU faced in the dance? I guess Maryland doesn’t count.)

    I’m a Colts fan, but I also root for the Bears. And the Packers. It drives my Chicago neighbor nuts.

    Consequently, I never had any great disdain for the Cardinals growing up. Most of my family are Cardinals fans. My wife never told me she was a Cardinals fan until we’d been married for years and she started cheering during the World Series. (I should have known. Her father is a huge STL fan. We go to a Cubs-Cards game every year I’m in the country. She just never had much interest in watching sports and I never bothered to ask.) It wasn’t until I moved to STL that I really started to dislike the Cardinals and their fans. Listening to them on the radio and at work about the Cardinal way and the greatest fans on earth and all that smug, self-entitled rubbish. Give me a #%^*ing break. I heard them all trashing their team before they went on their magical run in 2011. That bandwagon was empty before the Braves collapsed. I asked a coworker who was trying to rub it in my face at the time, and she not only couldn’t name half the starting lineup, she couldn’t even name the manager. The manager! And she was not atypical. That left a sour taste in my mouth that’s been there ever since.

  18. Well, we differ. That’s fine. I couldn’t root for Purdue if they were playing Satan U.

    And Knight rubbing up to the shoulders of La Russa made my stomach weak. But it really doesn’t matter. Baseball has lost all credibility on its on right….Allowing guys like A-Rod and Clemens to be poster boys for the sport doesn’t need my banter to accentuate just how corrupt, confused, and crooked it’s all become. I just don’t watch the sport anymore. I don’t believe I’m doing myself any disservice. The disservice was done to the great men that once put honor on the diamond…Clemente, Banks, Robinson, Santo….etc. There isn’t a record in the books from the last 25 years that means a hill of beans….Steroids and lying about their use infected every aspect every game and momentous hit in any series.

    And now they’ll give Pete Rose his pass….because they simply have to. They’ve allowed so much ugliness to remain in the game, might as well let the greasy gambler back in as another lovely role model for ‘America’s game.’

  19. We live in a Pollyanna world our sports…and decade after the decade the bar gets lower and lower for the despicable acts we allow to play in front of our kids. We look for new ways to excuse artificial enhancement performance and the brutal beating of a woman in an elevator. It’s all just too big of dollars in too many wallets to not allow that bar to get lower and lower. And then I hear people get on this blog and talk of Kelvin Sampson like he was O.J. Simpson…..It’s truly laughable ignorance and a way to blame so much on so little while we clap away and cheer for “our teams” and the wife-beater’s and needles stuck in the butts from Lance Armstrong to Roger Clemens….and the college football star QB rapists…and on…and on…and on.
    Sports? It’s all become one giant toilet. Try to pick which piece of sh___ smells sweeter. And if it pretends to be sweeter, then it has to preach to me and chase 3-way callers instead of steroid drug dealers, and thugs that assualt their girlfriends and wives.

  20. Punjab, there must be something more recent but, right off the top of my head, I can only remember IU vs. Michigan in the ’76 title game.

  21. Chet, that was the only one I could come up with, too. Although didn’t we play Ilinois in the late 80s/early 90s? That sticks in my head as a possibility, but I may be way off on that one.

    Harv, I’m with you on Clemens and A-Rod. But football’s no different. I’m coming around to the notion that if everybody’s cheating to get ahead, then nobody’s really getting ahead. A boss of mine told me that his best friend since childhood was a former Astros pitcher in the early 2000s. Apparently EVERYBODY was on the juice… even one who was recently elected to the HOF because people assumed “well, he has to be one of the clean ones.” So I stopped caring about who did and who didn’t. My animosity is reserved for the bald-faced liars and those who employ smear campaigns against others to try and clear their filthy name. Say what you will about McGuire. At least he never threw anybody under the bus, and he eventually owned up to it. I’m much more likely to give somebody like that a shot at redemption than clowns like Bonds or Braun.

  22. Guys did we not lose sometime shortly after “76” to a (decent)PUke team 1 year? I believe Bob Lee maybe played on it

  23. Good call. We lost to Purdue in 1980 (we defeated them in the NIT Final the previous year).

    While looking that up I also learned that the first use of clear backboards was in the old men’s gymnasium (later to be the HPER Building). They were constructed of 1 1/2″ thick plate glass.

    How about that?

  24. I never thought narcissism would reach a level of protecting Crean as to slather cream on a banner(less) stinky team in Lafayette.

    Yes, we get it. Crean ain’t so bad because he shares no banners with a Big 10 team that didn’t choke one particular tournament year while IU was in the midst of amassing deep tournament runs and blistering anything Purdon’t will accomplish in a 100 more years of basketball Yes, Tom Crean and Purdue do seem like a match made in heaven…Sadly, they wouldn’t have anything to do with him. One thing those unsophisticated armpits to the north do is get in your grill and play defense.

    .

  25. Are you familiar with the phrase ‘delusion of grandeur’…? I’ll leave it at that, Chester….for now. If you want to further the mirror being turned about, we can do that as well.

  26. Yes, my delusions are widely known…and grand. That’s for damned sure. If only I could be…(I don’t know…but I’m sure it’s grand).

    Robin Prince of thieves sounds pretty good (without the sexual overtones, of course).

    Let the anger go, dude. You’re not swaying public opinion. Pretty sure about that.

  27. Save the velvet couch brain shrink-wrap crap, mountain man. You’ve got plenty your own issues. Look in the mirror, dude. Are we going with dude now? You’ve got a bucket you can’t seem to fill no matter how much hosing you do on here, dude. Your life is so painted perfect in front of faces and eyes you don’t have to look directly, dude, that you’ve turned it into a museum piece. I just don’t know how I got those damn perfect kids that have lived in sixteen different countries around the world, dude… Chet, please stop. You stop with the fatherly BS and the narcissistic BS and the putting on vomit levels of makeup on your life…and maybe, just maybe, you can add some miniscule legitimacy to your role as senior brain shrink on Scoop. O.K, dude?

  28. Oh, and I certainly don’t post to sway any opinions. Opinions are rather arrogant things in their own right and sway to their own beat. And you prove no less arrogance of delusion in stating an opinion that speaks for others about the influence I never claimed to have on anyone.

  29. like this…..

    Chet- You are the most interesting man in the world. I am the most interesting fool in a fully mirrored comment box. But at the end of the day, you give it your best.

  30. I’d bore you to tears. My biggest recreational activity is walking through the woods. I really short on drama, too.

  31. Chet-

    You flew fighter jets….That is not boring. You ride motorcycles with a supermodel that also rides. …That is not boring. Your dog’s hotel preferences dictates where you’ll take your next vacation…That is not boring. You built a sailing vessel with your son in your garage….You blogged aboard said vessel while soaking up the warm sun of the Caribbean…That is not boring. You exercised with Rose(Andie) MacDowell …That is not only not boring, but it makes me sick. You made some dude that rammed your motorcycle at an intersection suddenly go back to diaper-wearing needs…That is not boring. You were the house in the Ashville hills with the gravel driveway subtly concealing the fact you had a regulation NBA court with glass blackboards in your backyard. You had a pick-up game with the full cast of the Brady Bunch on that cement paradise…That is not boring. You were runner-up to Michael Cole to play the role of Pete Cochran on the hit ’70s show, The Mod Squad….It then inspired you to invent the Cochran ear implant…That is not boring.
    With such a glorious life, the trees are merely reminders that they can only reach for a sky you have put in your hip pocket. Dare I continue. ….? There is much, much more…As I have told you many times before…I may be totally insane, but my recall is unmatched. Give my a few more minutes…Did you ever have dinner at the restaurant Geoff’s brother worked..? The one that was too far away to drop in and say hello?

  32. And you looked at a Southern Indiana billboard of a Navy jet flying to the heavens and you made good on that dream….Donald Trump can’t trump that sort of American dream….
    Hell, I once looked at a billboard for hemorrhoid surgery and thought of becoming a proctologist? Closest thing is the fact I sit here all day and scratch my butt over a hemorrhoid that’s so old it should be on ancestry.com…

    Did I mention that you were the only member a family that owned a ‘live bait and tackle shop’ for four generations rooted in Kentucky bloodlines to escape the grips of small-minded bigotry and selling UK logo fishing bobbers for a living? That is not boring.

  33. Did I forget to mention all your children our world class athletes and made toast of entrance exams into the Ivy League…? I think I forgot that one. I bumped into a tree while dropping more breadcrumbs to find my way back to my sh___ life.

  34. I need to go through my photos. I don’t remember most of that.

    That’s probably a bad sign.

  35. At least you have photos…My family cut my pictures out. My horrible rotting soul of anger was blistering through to the surface and there was a fear it would spread through the entire album.

  36. Chet- You’re confused. Your pictures are stored on a midgetal format….

  37. Harv, while you sometimes throw in a little snark (like everyone else) you’re generally good humored. You’re a thousand times harder on yourself than you are on anyone else.

    There’s got to be a better system than beating on yourself.

    I don’t know squat about the subject but letting go doesn’t seem to be your strong suit. It’s a handy skill.

    Just ramblin’. Take care.

  38. I had a life of being Pluto in the family solar system……Hell, it took my mom fifteen years to lift me out of the crib. My oldest sister, 8-years-old at the time, thought I was a plastic doll. She was the first to pick me up…. Those things don’t go away, Chet. You just have to make do.

  39. You might be surprised at the dark things people around you have experienced. I won’t go into a personal inventory but let’s just say I luckily encountered the right people for my personal navigation through some pretty horrible events.

    I’m better for it (I think).

    I hope you can find your own peace.

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