He’s been around the team regularly for a while now, but it was still pretty cool to see Kyle Schwarber deliver Thursday’s lineup card without help from crutches or protection from a boot. Don’t go getting your hopes up, though, War Bear is still out for the season.
Being able to rehab in Chicago instead of shipping out to Arizona is just one of the perks of the massive clubhouse renovation the Cubs unveiled earlier this year. It’s not hard to see how player and team alike can reap both physical and emotional benefits from staying in close contact at a time they might otherwise have been separated from the game and one another. If there’s anything we’ve learned Joe Maddon and this front office, it’s that they value the intangible as well as the metrics.
Perhaps no Cubs better embodies that philosophy than Schwarber, who ingratiated himself to Cubs fans immediately after being called up for the first time last season, batting .364 with a home run, 6 runs scored, and 6 RBI in a six-game stint in June. After some further seasoning in AAA that also included a Futures Game MVP, he became a legitimate folk hero by hitting 5 playoff home runs, one of which landed atop the video board in right field.
Yeah, I know everyone reading this is probably already a Cubs fan who is very familiar with the tall tales of War Bear, but HE HIT A BALL ONTO THE TOP OF THE VIDEO BOARD. Or the Schwarboard. Normal human beings don’t do that stuff.
Of course, Cubs fans also know that the converted catcher logged a whole 10 innings this season before a collision with Dexter Fowler in Arizona’s cavernous outfield led to a torn ACL and LCL. Schwarber has been working hard in the three months since and has regained full range of motion in the knee. He’s not up to full speed by any means, but is able to do some work in the pool and is walking without assistive devices.
And as if dealing with a blown-out knee and a lost season wasn’t enough, Schwarber’s also had to deal with the psychological burden of constant trade rumors. Despite being little more than media fabrication, the War Bear-to-the-Yankees talk has persisted and is really only now being shot down by anyone outside of Chicago. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with when you’re the one being named.
“You have to know in your own mind, rumors are rumors. I will worry about being a Cub,” Schwarber told 670 The Score Wednesday. “I can’t worry about that stuff. Here is what I can worry about — worry about my rehab, being a Cub and worry about this team going to the World Series. Until something happens physically, you can’t worry about it.”
“It is obviously nice that they feel that way about me,” the subdued slugger continued. “I love this organization and this team. I want to stay here. Obviously, these things are out of my control. Since [Theo] did say [the Cubs have no intention of trading me], I take that to heart. It means a lot.”
Schwarber shared similar thoughts (video) with ESPN’s Jesse Rogers prior to slipping into his 1916 throwback duds and joining his teammates. As great it was seeing him in uniform — Schwarber, not Rogers — and on the field, it was also bittersweet. With the Cubs’ offense scuffling of late, you can’t help but wish he was back in the heart of the order launching moonshots from the left side.
Then again, as I’m probably too fond of saying, you can wish in one hand and poop in the other and see which one fills up quicker.
But if there’s anyone who’s going to work to get healthy and come back even better than he was before, it’s Kyle Schwarber. From the moment he was drafted, his drive to succeed and to prove the doubters wrong has been evident. At times last season it appeared as though he was hitting home runs through sheer force of will. I do not envy the machines the weight room that will have to endure the wrath of his rehab over the next few months.
It’s awesome to have War Bear back on the field. It’ll be even better when he’s on the card instead of just handing it to the crew chief.