Schwarber looks like he should be swinging an axe or pulling up stumps for a living. He grew up about 40 miles from Cincinnati in the town of Middletown, Ohio, where his father, Greg, was the police chief and his mother, Donna, was a nurse and a police dispatcher.
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."
- Schwarber majored in recreational sports management. In high school he was a four-time MVP and second-team All-Ohio linebacker.
"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.
- June 18, 2015: Around 40 of Schwarber's family and friends -- including mom, dad, all three sisters, two brother-in-laws, a new niece, aunts, uncles and many more -- were in attendance during the Cubs' 17-0 win, hoping to see Schwarber maybe get a hit. Schwarber was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio. It couldn't have worked out any better that his first MLB start came at Progressive Field against the Indians.
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)
- 2015: Schwarber's bat from the Major League Baseball Futures Game on July 12 in Cincinnati is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Schwarber won MVP honors at the Futures Game.
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)
- Schwarber's Determination: Schwarber has always been the type of athlete who “loves to win” and “hates to lose,” according to his high school baseball coach Jason Cave. That isn’t a useless platitude. Cave can back it up.
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.
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 )
- January 2016: Like a modern-day Babe Ruth, Kyle Schwarber blasted a ball high over the scoreboard during Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. It was one of the defining moments of the postseason.
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. 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. "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.
The Cubs slugger has used the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song as part of his lineup since making his big-league debut in 2015, honoring the hip hop group that hails from his home state of Ohio. The funny part about the song, however, is it was released in 1994, the year after Schwarber was born.
- June 2014: The Cubs chose Kyle in the first round, out of the University of Indiana. He signed less than a week later for a below-slot $3.1 million bonus. The slot was at $4.6 million, saving the Cubs $1.5 million.
March 4, 2016: The Cubs and Schwarber agreed to a one-year deal for $522,000.
- 2018: Schwarber signed a one-year deal for $604,500.
|Nickname:||N/A||Position:||OF -- C|
|DOB:||3/5/1993||Agent:||Excel Sports Mgmt.|
|Birth City:||Middletown, OH|
|Draft:||Cubs #1 - 2014 - Out of Univ. of Indiana|
Schwarber is strong and has the bat speed to catch up to good velocity. he is balanced at the plate. He has a short, furious lefthanded stroke, keeping his hands back.
Kyle combines terrific present strength, especially strong legs, with plus bat speed and an efficient swing. He has the plate discipline to dominate. And he hits with power from pole to pole.
As one minor league hitting coach said, “When he impacts (the ball), it comes off different.” (Spring 2015)
His 18 homers in 2013, ranked third in the country, and helped the Hoosiers become the first Big Ten team reach the College World Series since 1984.
Kyle is listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds. He's a smart hitter who studies pitchers and has tremendous strength to punish pitches to all fields. Because he's thick, he could be quicker on pitches inside with a trimmer physique.
Schwarber developed his selectively aggressive approach to hitting while attending games at Great American Ball Park as a teen and taking mental notes on his favorite player, Reds first baseman Joey Votto. He’s big on working counts and waiting for a pitch he can drive, and he’s disciplined enough not to stray from that approach even with runners on base. He never has to "feel for the ball."
“I love watching Joey Votto hit,” Schwarber said. “He has this awesome approach at the plate, and I tried to make it into my own when I was in college. He just wants to get his pitch, and when he gets his pitch, he doesn’t miss it. That’s what I took from it. I tried to make it my own and I kind of hound myself on it.”
- As with most lefthanded batters, Kyle can be can be flummoxed by same-side spin or sliders down-and-in from righthanders.
Schwarber grades out as a 70-75 hitter (so he should hit .300), along with 70-75 power (good for 30 homers per season) when he peaks.
2014 Season: Schwarber had the best debut of any 2014 draft pick, swatting 18 home runs over three levels (plus one more in the playoffs). He did it while spending the most time in the pitcher-friendly FSL while learning a new position (left field) and still mixing in catching.
June 17, 2015: Schwarber ripped an RBI triple for first MLB hit in his first at-bat in the Majors. And he added three more singles, finishing with an amazing 4-for-5 on the night.
In the 2015 N.L. Wild Card game, Kyle hit a 450-foot homer and drove in three runs as the Cubs defeated the Pirates 4-0 and go to the Division Series and beating the Cardinals.
In 2015, Schwarber hit a total of five home runs in the postseason -- a Cubs all-time record.
- As of the start of the 2018 season, Kyle had a .222 career batting average with 46 home runs and 102 RBI in 658 at-bats in the Majors.
Kyle is a below-average receiver and thrower (despite average raw arm strength) who does have the makeup and leadership ability required at catcher. He still stabs and boxes too many balls, and a long transfer can sabotage his solid-average arm strength.
"He certainly has the mentality and the makeup to (catch professionally),” Cubs VP of Scouting Jason McLeod said upon drafting Schwarber. “He has the will to do it. We’ll let that play out. We feel he’s a really good, underrated athlete who could certainly move to an outfield corner.” Said Schwarber: “I really have a passion for catching, but whatever the Cubs are wanting me to do is what I’ll do.”
Schwarber can also play left field or right field. But he doesn't get a good or accurate jump to the ball.
Because his bat is "big league-ready," the Cubs didn't hold him back, waiting for his receiving skills to catch up. They called him up midway through the 2015 season, put him in left field, and watched Kyle make every fly ball an adventure -- some with a bad ending.
Kyle is relatively new to calling his own games. While Schwarber may not ever become a top-tier glove man behind the plate, people who know his work ethic still believe he could backstop in the Majors.
Cubs farm director Jaron Madison calls Schwarber a grinder who is eager to do the necessary work to get comfortable behind the plate. In college, Kyle never learned the basics, like setting a low target so umpires can see the ball.
"Another thing he did is drop to one knee every time he received a pitch, which put him in a bad position to throw out runners," Madison said.
Now that knee drop is gone, and his throwing motion is short, giving him a quicker release. (Chris Gigley-Vine Line-Dec. 2014)
CUBS REMAKE SCHWARBER—NOSE to TOES: He's too big. His receiving isn’t up to par, and his throwing is poor. All of that is true. But the Cubs and Schwarber are trying to prove that when it comes to catching, past performance doesn’t equal destiny. In many ways, he represents the best example of the organization’s attempt to grow its own catchers. It isn’t so different than the Wrigley Field renovations: Keep the basic structure, but rip out much of the old and replace it with a new look.
Can a catcher be made through raw tools and hard work? The Cubs will find out. Yes, Schwarber has been a catcher pretty much all his life, but when he joined the Cubs organization, he quickly realized he was starting over.
“In college it’s just, ‘Catch the ball.’ Umpires will call it over the plate and four inches off the plate,” Schwarber said. “Now if you don’t make that bottom-of-the-zone pitch a strike, or if you drag your glove out of the zone, the pitcher will be mad at you.”
The Cubs made Schwarber redo almost everything about his receiving mechanics, his thought process and his practice routine. When Cubs’ catching experts watched Schwarber as an amateur, they didn’t see much worth keeping. He has excellent hand-eye coordination, which helps him receive. The former high school middle linebacker always has embraced the leadership role that comes with the position, and he quickly proved that he was willing to work. The Cubs had to make sure he didn’t overdo it, but they never needed to worry about motivating him.
The Cubs started with Schwarber’s set-up. When he got into position to call for a pitch, he would leave much of his weight sitting on the insides of his two big toes, making it hard for him to find a proper balance. He also was putting too much weight on his ankle and knee ligaments, which was a problem, because at 240 pounds, Schwarber already is bigger than most catchers.
He then would bring his glove back to the center of his chest and leave it there, only presenting a target for pitchers after they began their deliveries. His glove path to catch the ball was inconsistent, and he’d drop his left knee to the ground as he tried to snare the pitch. And if he needed to throw, his arm stroke was too long, and he gripped the ball in the palm of his hand instead of his fingers.
Cubs roving catching coordinator Tim Cossins spearheaded the work, digging into the details. Before long, Schwarber was spreading his toes in his cleats and resting his weight on a much larger contact patch of his foot.
“Prior to the baseball being released, everything that happens before that has been reworked and re-scripted,” Cossins said. “That gives him an opportunity to use that really good vision and that really good left hand.”
Schwarber started giving pitchers an inviting target and learned that catching a pitch is about much more than just getting it into your glove.
“It’s about how you present your glove,” he said. “If it’s on your left knee, you don’t want it to get too deep. You want to force it back to the plate. On your right knee, you have to work around it and kind of swallow it. Down the middle and low, you might need to funnel it, or you might have to go under there and just stick it. It’s a lot of different details.”
In the instructional league after the 2014 season, Schwarber never picked up a bat. He spent all his time working on his defense. That wasn’t enough, so he ended up flying to spend another week with Cossins in the offseason, doing two-a-days of defensive drills. Kyle remains a long way from mastering his craft, though he now is capable enough to log spring training innings behind the plate, catching real big leaguers. He’s not ready to catch an actual big league game, however. But Kyle has the aptitude to be an excellent game-caller. (excerpted from Baseball America 4/10/15 - J.J. Cooper -- just outstanding J.J.)
- In 2017, Schwarber caught 4 games for the Cubs.
April 8-Oct 22, 2016: Schwarber went on the DL with torn ligaments in left knee and severe left ankle sprain. With a torn ACL and LCL, he missed almost the entire year. And on April 11, 2016, Kyle was placed on the 60-Day DL.
April 19: Kyle underwent successful ACL reconstruction and LCL repair on his left knee by Dallas Cowboys orthopedic specialist Dr. Daniel Cooper, and the Cubs expect a full recovery. (Editor's note: He did, however, get activated and played during the historic 2016 post-season, providing an emotional lift for the Cubs and their fans.)