Courtesy of the Associated Press
"What's the deal with that Schwarber kid?" It was the first thing my boss said to me when she walked into our staff meeting after a long vacation in Arizona, the day of the start of the 2016 World Series. She had been a first-hand witness to the furor surrounding the young Cubs slugger the day before, when the team sent a private jet to Phoenix to get him to Cleveland in time for the start of game 1, where he would serve as a designated hitter in the American League ballpark. "EVERYONE was talking about it," she said. "Even the shuttle driver for my rental car!" If only she knew what a big deal it was to me and the rest of the Cubs universe. You remember...
It was April 7, 2016. We had spent all winter dreaming on what Schwarbs would do that season after watching him demolish the Pirates in the 2015 Wild Card game and then the Cardinals in the NLDS. In a nice 69-game rookie campaign, he slashed .246/.355/.487 with 16 HR and a 131 wRC+ after never hitting under .300 in the minor leagues. Could this be the complete hitter we'd been waiting for? But wait we would when the unthinkable happened.
You didn't think I'd put up a GIF of his injury, did you? I'm not a monster!
In an outfield collision with the much smaller Dexter Fowler, Schwarbs was left with full tears in his ACL and LCL in his left knee, necessitating surgery and guaranteeing he would miss the entirety of the season. Doctors said he'd be lucky to come back for a bit of winter ball once the playoffs were over. Since you're reading this, I probably don't need to tell you how devastating it was for Cubs fans. You know it--you lived it just like I did.
Schwarbs hung around that season in the dugout, cheering the team on and periodically making his presence known by doing something unexpectedly cool.
The team rolled to an MLB-best 103-59 record even without Schwarber's contributions, but like a lot of people I couldn't help but wonder how much more complete the squad would've been without that big lefty bat thumping in the middle of the lineup.
The Cubs took down the Giants in 4 games in the NLDS, then rumblings started during their NLCS with the Dodgers that Schwarber could be cleared to play with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. We had been hearing reports since September that his rehab had been going extremely well, but I didn't expect... that. Schwarber even got his own little celebration in Arizona the day that the Cubs clinched their trip to the World Series.
Over the next four days, Schwarber would see more than 1,300 pitches in an attempt to get his timing back, determined to get ready for the World Series. His only obstacle was a pesky clearance from the doctor coupled with an OK from Thed and the rest of the Cubs Front Office... clearance he would receive the day before the World Series began.
On October 25, 2016, we all tuned in... you remember... to watch game 1 of the World Series in Cleveland with Schwarber batting in the fifth spot in the lineup. He wouldn't be cleared to play in the outfield for the series, so he would be limited to pinch-hitting duties for games 3-5 at Wrigley, but no matter. In the games he did play, Schwarber slashed .412/.500./.471, and delivered the hit that would start the epic 10th inning rally in game 7 that won it all.
Our now Medium Adult Son Schwarbs has had a few bumps in the road since his big comeback, but his second half in 2019 showed signs of that complete hitter we all dreamed on after that amazing World Series, and yes... he really, truly has turned into a pretty decent outfielder. If we're lucky and Thed keep him around, we might just see another comeback out of Schwarber yet.