Schwarber checks off ‘bucket-list’ item by playing in World Baseball Classic

Middletown native homers in final game for Team USA

Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber gave Team USA a brief moment of hope with a solo home run in the eighth inning Tuesday in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic.

Schwarber’s second home run in the tournament cut Japan’s lead to one run, but it would be the last run scored in a 3-2 loss to Japan in Miami.

Schwarber hit .214 (3 for 14) with four RBIs in his first World Baseball Classic appearance.

“This is kind of our Olympics,” Schwarber said in a press conference before the game Tuesday. “We don’t get that opportunity to really play wherever the Olympics are at. So for us to represent our country and to see the way that the fans have been reacting in our games, this is the playoffs before the season even starts. It’s a great atmosphere for everyone. It’s a great atmosphere for us as players, and this is the atmosphere that we all love to thrive in and be in. So it’s great to be able to play against all different kinds of competition.”

This was the fifth World Baseball Classic. Japan won the first two championships in 2006 and 2009. The Dominican Republic won the event in 2013. The United States won in 2017.

“It’s been kind of one of those bucket-list items,” Schwarber said, “being able to play in this and getting to experience it, and this is something that you want to continue to play in. Getting to the finals and seeing the way that the atmosphere’s been, it’s very relatable. It’s definitely different from the World Series, but I think it’s special in its own right, and that’s something cool as well because this is a completely different experience.”

Schwarber, 30, is entering his ninth season in the big leagues and his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies. He hit .250 (5 for 20) with three home runs and four RBIs in the World Series last season as the Phillies lost in six games to the Houston Astros.

Schwarber played in five spring training games this month before reporting to Team USA. The Phillies open the season on the road against the Texas Rangers on March 30. While he might have gotten fewer at-bats this spring while playing in the WBC, he sees the pluses in the experience, too.

“This is like the best at-bats that you could ever get before a season,” Schwarber said. “You’re not really tiptoeing your way through a spring training at-bat. You’re coming in, and competing, and it’s time to win. It’s kind of like the regular season. You’re getting your work done in the cage, and you’re competing in the game. This is straight competition. Go out there, compete, and the best man wins. So I don’t feel like the quantity is a problem because I would say everyone’s got really good quality.”

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