PHOENIX — Kyle Schwarber won’t have the Kirk Gibson moment where he hobbles out of the dugout and hits the game-winning home run.
Schwarber’s season is already over, a hard-to-watch outfield collision with Dexter Fowler ending his season before it even really began, an abrupt stop to what had been a fast-track career.
When the Cubs roll through their pregame introductions before Monday night’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds, the loudest roars at Wrigley Field still might be for Schwarber.
Even on a team featuring the National League’s reigning Manager of the Year (Joe Maddon), Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) and Rookie of the Year (Kris Bryant). Any highlight-reel mixes looking back on 2015 will have to put Schwarber’s face on the big video board in left field.
“He’s an unusual talent,” Maddon said, “(with) how hard he hits the ball, how far he can hit a baseball and just the way he plays. Nobody wants to see him get hurt. But I know actually there’s probably a lot of people that appreciate the way he got hurt.”
This would have bothered Schwarber more: Going half-speed in Game 3 or giving up on the ball Arizona Diamondbacks leadoff guy Jean Segura blasted into Chase Field’s left-center field gap.
Schwarber says no regrets after crashing into Fowler and tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee. That max-effort style and blue-collar attitude resonated in Chicago. Here was a guy who even looked like a middle linebacker and went to a Big Ten school.
“That lovefest will continue,” Maddon said. “He’s going to come back. He will be fine when he’s ready to come back and play again. But he’s definitely a part of the fabric there already.
“The fans are enthralled with him — I understand that — but I think that holds true with a lot of our players. There’s this young, authentic, charismatic group that’s come along at the same time that the fans can identify with.”
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Whatever comes next — and however the Cubs plan to recognize their new cheerleader — Schwarber will always be remembered for his playoff heroics.
During his rookie year/first full season in professional baseball, Schwarber silenced the wild-card game blackout crowd at PNC Park with an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer off Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole that landed in the Allegheny River.
“The Schwarber Ball” — which helped eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals in the next playoff round and became a goofy Chicago media story — has since been removed from the video board in right field.
“I guess he’ll just have to hit another one up there,” Maddon said.