For a guy who spent so much time and energy trying to make it as a big-league catcher – and missed almost the entire regular season last year after a brutal collision that destroyed his left knee – Kyle Schwarber still plays the outfield with the aggressiveness that made him a second-team All-Ohio linebacker in high school.
That’s why the Cubs have such an organizational man crush on Schwarber and never would have traded him to the New York Yankees for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman last summer, viewing his infectious personality as an essential part of their clubhouse culture. It helped turn Schwarber into a World Series legend before his 24th birthday.
Schwarber created his own Derek Jeter moment late Sunday night against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, charging over from left, tracking the ball Chase Headley lifted into Bartman foul territory and tumbling headfirst over the brick wall and into the seats to make a spectacular catch in the 12th inning.
For a moment, all you could see of Schwarber was the bottom of his Nike cleats and his glove thrown up in the air to show he had the ball.
“It was amazing,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after a 5-4 loss that took 18 innings and ended on Monday morning. “That’s the type of team we are – we play balls to the wall, no matter what.”
Rizzo – who has made highlight-reel catches/Olympic balance-beam tributes on the tarp and wall on the other side of the ballpark – lifted his left arm and raised his index finger in the air. Center fielder Albert Almora Jr. hugged Schwarber from behind when they reached the dugout while Jason Heyward slapped him on the back. Even if Schwarber isn’t as smooth as those Gold Glove-caliber defenders, he doesn’t want to be viewed as the weak link and works hard at that part of his game.
“If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be an aggressive mistake, not a passive mistake,” Schwarber said. “That’s just the way I feel like baseball should be played. You’re not ever going to get yelled at if you’re going balls to the wall trying to make a play.
“No one can second-guess you on that. So that’s what I do. I just want to go out there and play the game 100 percent every day and try and make every play possible and go from there.”