Kyle Schwarber isn’t too concerned about being one of the few Middletown products — perhaps only two — to have accomplished what he did last season.
The best available research suggests that only Schwarber and Jerry Lucas have played on teams that won world championships in major sports. Lucas was a member of the 1972-1973 New York Knicks who won the NBA championship.
Schwarber, of course, recovered from two torn ligaments in his left knee in time to hit .412 with a double, two runs batted in and three walks last fall for the Chicago Cubs team that ended its 108-year drought by winning the World Series in a seven-game thriller against the Cleveland Indians.
The catcher-turned-outfielder remains too thrilled about the accomplishment to worry about where he fits into Middletown lore. He continues to feel simply lucky to have been able to take part.
“Being a competitor, that’s what you dream about,” Schwarber, 24, said Friday in the Great American Ball Park visitors’ clubhouse before the opener of Chicago’s three-game series against the Reds. “Your ultimate goal is to win the championship. For me to be on a team that, No. 1, got there and then to win it and have it happen at a young age — the organization and the players get all the credit just for letting me come on board and be able to contribute.”
Schwarber, a 2011 Middletown High School graduate, returned to Cincinnati as the Cubs’ regular left fielder and leadoff hitter. The left-hander was hitting .232 with three home runs and eight RBIs while having played in all 15 games for 8-7 Chicago. He had a .500 (7-for-14) on-base percentage leading off and drew a career-high three walks April 10 against Kansas City in his first regular-season game at Wrigley Field since Sept. 28, 2015. He was leading the Cubs with 11 walks.
“It’s going good,” said the 6-foot, 235-pounder. “I don’t feel like I have to take a different approach. I take the same approach to at-bats and try to get on base and score as many runs as possible. That’s a winning recipe.”
Manager Joe Maddon’s reaction when asked his thoughts on Schwarber as the leadoff hitter?
“Love it,” he said. “He’s doing a good job. He’s been hitting the ball hard and accepting his walks. He’s doing a good job in the outfield. He’s striking out a little bit, but we knew that. It’s very scary every time he’s swung the bat. He’s done a great job.”
April 7 was the one-year anniversary of Schwarber’s injury, and the only knee-related work he’s doing these days is maintenance.
“Mainly to keep my hips loose and things like that,” he said.
He was as concerned about finding tickets for his family, nine of whom were due for Friday’s game, and looking forward to spending Saturday night at home, getting to know his newest nephew, Roman, the son of his sister Kelly.
He considers that a good way for him to stay grounded and not get caught up in the hoopla of the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908.
“I’m just trying to be the same kid from Middletown,” he said, “and keep grinding.”
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