Schwarber looks like he should be swinging an axe or pulling up stumps for a living
Recruited by some Big 10 Conference schools to play middle linebacker, Schwarber instead brought his fierce physicality and power to the middle of the diamond anchoring Indiana's lineup for three seasons
Kyle's leadership qualities have been evident with the Hoosiers, and he has strong durable body for catching.
He is a solid clubhouse presence. Players are very comfortable around him. (Aug., 2015)
In 2014, the Cubs chose Schwarber in the first round—the 4th player chosen, behind Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, and Carlos Rodon. Kyle was scouted by Cubs area scout Stan Zirelinski, who made his way to Middletown, Ohio, halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati, to see the tough catcher.
"Stan knew Schwarber before he was a prospect," said Matt Dorey, the Cubs' director of amateur scouting. "The one constant through all those years of evaluations was Schwarber's competitiveness. He was a leader on his high school football team, and if you talk to anyone at Indiana, they said the same thing.
"Kyle Schwarber changed the culture of Indiana baseball by his work ethic, how he carried himself on campus and how he treated everyone."
"I was 8 or 10, and I was a catcher," Schwarber told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "and my grandmother said to me, 'I want you to be like Johnny Bench.' I said, 'Who's Johnny Bench?' She said, 'The best catcher to ever play the game.' She told me all about him."
Schwarber did meet Bench during a national tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., and had a picture taken with the Hall of Famer. (Muskat - mlb.com - 6/5/14)
"In football, the middle linebacker is the field captain, and it's the same for a catcher in baseball—you're the field manager," Schwarber said of being a catcher. "You control the staff—they trust you, and you trust them—and you have to know where everyone's playing. You direct. It's a big responsibility. I love it."
Hoosiers baseball coach Tracy Smith's wife, Jamie, is from Middletown, and urged her husband to look at Schwarber.
"It's still amazing when I think back to recruiting him," Smith told the Indianapolis Star last year. "It wasn't like we had to beat out a bunch of people to get him. He was a relatively unknown player, thank goodness."
Whether Schwarber will be a catcher in the big leagues remains to be seen. He loves the role. "Catching is what I really want to be doing," Schwarber said. "There's no other position I want to play. I like catching because it's down and dirty and gritty. It's an awesome position." (Muskat - mlb.com - 6/5/14)
In 2013, Schwarber was selected the best catcher in the country by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He actually became a catcher because of his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, he said he couldn't focus at any other position.
"I was the kid who was all over the place, left and right," he said.
On the draft day, Schwarber played at Weatherwax Golf Course in his hometown and had lots of family and friends around him as he watched the draft, including some of his Little League buddies. "It was an awesome turnout," he said. (Muskat - mlb.com - 6/5/14)
In 2015, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Schwarber as the 4th-best prospect in the Cubs organization.
Schwarber's teammates embrace how passionate he is about the game. He's the kind of guy you want, not just in the middle of your lineup, but also in the middle of your clubhouse. All he cares about is winning.
To know him is to like him. You can't walk away from Kyle without liking him. He's fun-loving. If the team's too tight, he tries to loosen them up. If the team is too loose, he tells the guys to get their focus back.
Kyle's personality and drive a difference-maker equal to—if not greater than—his big-pop hitting potential.
Everyone got his wish when Schwarber's first Major League hit came on an RBI triple off Shaun Marcum in the second inning. "I didn't see that one coming," Schwarber said with a smile of the triple. "At least I go the first one out of the way."
Everyone's wish came true again when Schwarber drove in another run, this time on an RBI single in the third. Then again with another single in the seventh inning, and once more for good measure in the ninth.
In all, Schwarber went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored during the most lopsided shutout in Interleague history. And his closest loved ones went home proud and smiling.
"It's awesome to have them here and be able to watch my first start," Schwarber said. "It was a great feeling. I know that they were really happy for me and I was just really pumped that they were able to make it. It's crazy. It's something that you dream about when you grow up. That's what I've always told people, that I wanted to be a baseball player. Now I'm here and it's actually happening, it's awesome." (Fagerstrom - mlb.com - 6/18/15)
Schwarber, who was with the Iowa Cubs (Chicago's Triple-A team) at the time, went 1-for-3 with a two-run triple to lead the U.S.Team past the World 10-1.
Craig Muder, Director of Communications at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, told Cincinnati.com his bat would be on display at the "Today's Game" exhibit for the remainder of 2015. The bat will be moved before the start of the 2016 season and the curators will decide on the location that winter.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum usually receives an artifact from the Futures Game MVP and it goes on display for the rest of that year.
Schwarber makes no bones about growing up a Reds fan. He lived 20 minutes north of Cincinnati, and attended games at Great American Ball Park as a kid.
So, while winning the MVP of the Futures Game in any year is special, taking home the honor in front of too many friends and family members to count made his day doubly delightful.
“It was awesome to come out here and actually step on the field that I grew up watching ballgames played on, my eyes lit up as soon as I stepped out there,” he said. “Once it was time to go, it was time to go.”
Schwarber was given the award for a 1-for-3 afternoon that included a two-run triple and a runner caught stealing.
Kyle's uncle, Thomas Schwarber, pitched for Ohio State and in the Detroit Tigers system.
October 2015: In three years, Kyle Schwarber went from undrafted out of Middletown High School to the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft. And though the Cubs selected him higher than any other team would have, he needed just 12 months to reach the big leagues before becoming a force in his first postseason.
How exactly did Schwarber get repeatedly underestimated until he hit 16 homers in 69 games as a 22-year-old rookie and three more in his first five playoff contests? Schwarber has been a power and on-base machine since his days at Middletown. Scouts liked his bat and his approach, but there were questions about whether he could receive well enough to stay behind the plate. Schwarber opted to attend Indiana.
"Schwarber just kept coming up with big hits," Cub's scout Stan Zielinski said. "He was able to control the zone and recognize pitches. It was pretty impressive. His sophomore year, it became apparent he had an advanced approach and had really figured it out."
When Indiana ventured to Arizona for the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Tournament, Zielinski arranged for the Hoosiers to take batting practice at the Cubs' training base in Mesa. Afterward, Schwarber met with Chicago president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and senior vice president for scouting player development Jason McLeod. He aced the interview.
"He was really impressive, so comfortable," McLeod said. "He was very matter of fact, gave pointed answers. He made it clear he wanted to catch and was so determined to prove people wrong. He was so confident. After he left, Theo and I looked at each other and said, 'Wow.'
"That didn't surprise Zielinski, who also had become more impressed with Schwarber the more he had gotten to know him. "He's got a John Wayne aura about him," Zielinski said. "He's just a likable kid. He's so genuine. You meet him and you're sold. Just watching him play, you could really tell he enjoyed the game. He had intensity but he had fun too. That really stuck out.
"I think I projected him as a plus hitter with plus power, and looking back that might be light," Zielinski said. "But I did see the athleticism. That's the underrated part that people just don't see because of his strong frame. That's the sneaky part of his game. He can adapt and he has instincts for the game." (J Callis - MLB.com - October 2015)
A loss didn’t cause Schwarber to go into a table-tossing tantrum like so many driven athletes. Instead, it served to strengthen his determination. At one point during his high school baseball career, Schwarber didn’t think he was fast enough. So after hours of practice or even a game, Schwarber went to speed clinics. ( Seth Gruen /2015)
Schwarber credits his parents, Greg and Donna, for instilling character and a strong work ethic. He remembered back in 2008 when his father, then Middletown’s police chief, accidentally shot himself in the left leg while cleaning his gun. The story, as you can imagine, made national news:
“Police Chief Shoots Self in Leg” the headlines read
“Police Chief Shoots Self in Leg” the headlines read.
But his father never hid from the accident.
“He set a good example,” Schwarber told the crowd. “Own up to your mistakes. Your character has to take over.” (By Rick McCrabb/2015 )
Given the importance of the moment, along with the majesty of the shot, the Cubs decided to leave the ball there, covering it in glass as a testament to human power.
It turns out future generations won't be able to gaze upon the ball, as it has been removed. Cubs spokesman Julian Green told the Chicago Tribune that the ball had been removed, but was sure to say that the Cubs did have the ball in a "safe, secure space."
Schwarber sang a cappella with his high school choir. And he knows how to play some classic rock on his bass guitar.
2016 Spring Training: On March 19, the Cubs hosted an RBI Junior All-Star team at their Spring Training home in Arizona. Pretty cool, right? Well, you know what's cooler? Getting to hang out with Kyle Schwarber at the same time:
But you know what's coolest? When you're a catcher with a broken glove.
"Wait," you might be saying, "having equipment that doesn't work is actually the opposite of cool. Do you even know what words mean?"
Don't worry, I promise it's going to be OK. Even though 15-year-old catcher Jose Alvarado's glove was broken, he still got to play, because he borrowed one -- from Kyle Schwarber. Here's what Alvarado told Big League Stew:
"I couldn't get [my glove] fixed, so I basically came out here with no catcher's glove … [Schwarber said], 'Let me go get my glove for you,' but it all happened so fast that I was in shock. So he sent one of the guys ... to get his glove, and I was surprised that he actually let me use it. I was like, 'Whoa, I'm about to use Kyle Schwarber's glove today.'"
That's not all -- after the game was over, Schwarber brought Alvarado back into the clubhouse, where he gave him one of his very own, unused catcher's mitts. And that wasn't even the end of Schwarber's generosity.
Then Schwarber grabbed a couple arms full of gear and brought it back to the practice field
Then Schwarber grabbed a couple arms full of gear and brought it back to the practice field. One kid got a pair of shoes. Another got a bat. Another batting gloves. As that excitement settled, Jose was standing there marveling at his new catcher's glove. (Carrie Muskat - MLB - 3/21/2016)
March 30, 2017: If you watched Kyle Schwarber, he was sticking his right leg out when he was behind the plate. Remember, he had surgery on his left knee to repair two torn ligaments, and this spring, he's been extending the left leg.
"We changed it for spring to give [the knee] time to get the complete healing," Schwarber said. "They say it takes 12 months to be completely fine. When I catch, I'd rather be bending down on my left knee. I'll switch it up here and there. I'm mostly going to stay on my left."
It's a good sign that Schwarber's left knee is strong enough that he can do that, considering it was uncertain whether he'd catch again after the injury, sustained in the third game of the regular season last year. "Everything's good," Schwarber said.
The Cubs' new leadoff man, Schwarber and manager Joe Maddon have come up with their own message before each of his at-bats. In 2016, Maddon would tell Dexter Fowler, "You go, we go."
Maddon wouldn't reveal what he'll say to Schwarber, saying it was "X-rated." Schwarber wouldn't reveal it, either. "No messages," Schwarber said. "It's going to stay secret on my end." (C Muskat - MLB.com - March 31, 2017)
Before a Cubs July 2017 game, Kyle toured the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center to pay his respects to veterans. It's part of his Neighborhood Heroes program, which he started in 2017, and it helps him keep things in perspective.
"Whenever you can go visit vets, it's good," Schwarber said. "Things could be a lot worse. Just to see those people and show them respect and thank them for their service, it made my day." (Muskat - mlb.com - 7/27/17)
If Kyle weren't a Major League ballplayer, he would probably be a Navy Seal. Or maybe he would have followed his dad, Greg, and become a police officer. The Cubs outfielder knows the risks and the sacrifices his father made, which is why he's trying to honor first responders through his Neighborhood Heroes campaign.
"This is a big deal to me," Schwarber said of the program. "I grew up in it. Now that I'm in a spot to where I can do something for these people and kick it off this year, it's really cool for me. There's a lot of good out there," he said. "A lot of good goes unseen. That's another reason to do it. A lot of good goes unseen, and if I can maybe shed some light on that, it'll be cool."
So far, Schwarber has hosted first responders at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, brought gifts to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and had lunch with firefighters at Chicago Fire Department Engine 112. On Sept. 10, 2017, he will host his inaugural fundraiser, Schwarber's Block Party, to help raise funds for first responders.
Schwarber's father, who is retired after 30-plus years with the Middletown Police Department in Ohio, would tell Kyle stories about the job -- and the danger involved
Schwarber's father, who is retired after 30-plus years with the Middletown Police Department in Ohio, would tell Kyle stories about the job -- and the danger involved. "He wasn't shy to talk about it," Schwarber said. "There'd be times when I was in college and I was going to Cape Cod, or whenever we went on long road trips, I'd have him tell me stories about his funniest [incidents] or the scariest ones. He'd talk about it.
"Luckily, in his days, I know for a fact, he never had to fire his weapon once," Schwarber said. "Through 30 years of police work, that's pretty good."
It wasn't all smooth. Greg Schwarber was hit head-on by a drunk driver when Kyle was in high school, and he suffered a concussion and a fractured sternum. "He's gone through things and he's faced some adversity, too," Kyle said. "He's always been a guy I looked up to."
And Greg Schwarber is the inspiration for his son's foundation. Schwarber's mother was a police dispatcher. His sister, Lindsey, served in the Army National Guard and went to Bahrain. She's now a police officer in Ohio. She'll be at Schwarber's fundraiser.
"I always talk about it, too. I always talk about it with my dad -- I said, 'If baseball doesn't work out, maybe I'll join the military and be a policeman.'" His father would support him. "He knows people have to do their duty," Schwarber said of his father. "He just wants them to be safe." (Muskat - mlb.com - 8/20/17)
During the winter before 2018 spring training, Kyle traded pizza and burgers for chicken and brown rice. The result: a loss of 20 pounds.