It probably couldn’t have gotten better for the Chicago Cubs’ rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber (one tiny detail). Let me set the stage a little just because this story is seriously cool.
Cincinnati, Ohio – Schwarber grew up a BIG Cincinnati Reds’ fans in Middletown, Ohio, not far from the city or the ballpark. Schwarber, just 22, was born on March 5, 1993. He grew up actually looking up to a few of the Reds, who were probably the age he is now when he was just aspiring to be them, that he played against Tuesday night.
He of course knew of the Great Reds that had come before him from Johnny Bench to Ken Griffey Jr. but when he was kid he was watching guys like Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. They’re in the generation on their way out of the game and he’s a part of this new generation of players that are moving in to take their place as sports superstars.
So being at the Great American Ballpark, in a sense, was being home for Schwarber. Being so near home Schwarber had a lot of fans at the game Tuesday night. One of thirteen children in his family, the rest of whom came with his parents and quite a few other relatives all, clad in Cubs gear were there to cheer him on. The television announcer noted that he must have had a section of twenty-plus people there.
Schwarber put on one heck of show for his fan club and for the rest of the young Cubs team, Tuesday. Schwarber not only went four for seven on the night.
He tied the game with two outs in the top of the ninth facing J.J. Hoover (the Reds really should have gone with closer Aroldis Chapman) with a two-run homer that changed the score, and the game, from the Reds winning 4-2 to a brand new ballgame starting at four all. Up to bat again in the top of the 13th inning Schwarber launched another, this time a solo moon shot that ended up winning the game for the Cubs.
He earlier in the night Schwarber had singled in the third and hit a RBI ground-rule double in the fifth to finish with four RBI. Schwarber probably would have been fine with the first two hits of the game saying later,
“I always said I wanted to be a Major League ballplayer when I was growing up, but I never knew it would come to fruition. A lot of hard work went into that and now it’s here. It’s an awesome feeling to just play a ballgame up in the Major Leagues.”
He went on to tell reporters that he was more than ready to take on his favorite team again,
“I’m ready to get back here and do it all over again,” Schwarber said. “Excited for it.”
Manager Joe Maddon couldn’t say enough about the rookie’s contributions to the team, his development and his work ethic.
“Pretty impressive, obviously, and I know everybody is going to focus on his hitting but he did a really good job behind the plate today,” Maddon said. “The way he caught our guys, the game he called, blocking the pitches. Everything he did today was first rate, so yeah, offensively he’s got a different kind of thing with the bat. He’s very talented, but he’s catching up defensively and that’s really important.”
In a previous post I wrote of Schwarber, who is now batting .410, MLB debut. Clearly this kid, this catcher is something special. That’s what has been said about many of the rookie Cubs who have come before him this season (Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell) but I don’t think they really hold a candle to Schwarber. Catcher is probably the toughest defensive position, calling the game, keeping an eye on the runners, framing pitches, it is the position that controls most of the game.
Schwarber is taking on the task of being an big league catcher at just 22 years old. This is something that he is basically learning on the job, something it takes most players years to finally accomplish and he’s doing it well. He is also establishing himself as an offensive weapon for Chicago, which is an unusual characteristic for a catcher.
Being awesome on the field, praised by your manager and hitting not one but two game changing home runs with his entire family there watching? I doubt many things feel better than that. I can only imagine it would have been better if Schwarber had done it as a member of the Reds. But that’s not his path. His path is to join up with the rest of the young Cubs team and break a century long curse sometime in the seemingly very-near future.
Didn’t I tell you that Kyle Schwarber is …. um, well … awesome?!