Cubs’ rookie catcher grew up Reds’ fan

Published 12:22 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — Catcher Kyle Schwarber was back home, batting second for the Chicago Cubs in the ballpark where he always dreamed of playing. It has been a good place for him so far.

The rookie was in the lineup for the opening game of a series against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. He grew up in nearby Middletown, Ohio, rooting for the Reds and trying to pick up batting tips by watching Joey Votto.

Eight days earlier, the first-round draft pick from 2014 finally got his chance to play at Great American Ball Park during the All-Star Futures Game. His two-run triple started the U.S. team to a 10-1 win and earned the MVP trophy. The bat he used was sent to Cooperstown for part of an All-Star exhibit.

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“They gave me the trophy,” he said, sitting in the Cubs dugout. “They took my bat to the Hall of Fame, so that’s a cool thing. I had a lot of fun here.”

The Cubs called him up in June to play six games as a designated hitter. He hit his first career homer in Cleveland with a lot of family and friends on hand. Then he was sent back to the minors, making him eligible to play in the Futures Game.

The Cubs called him up again last week after catcher Miguel Montero sprained his left thumb and went on the 15-day disabled list.

“I got here, now it’s time to stay here,” he said. “The easy part is getting here, the hard part’s being able to stay here.”

Schwarber said it helped that he had already played a game at Great American, taking away some of the novelty. Manager Joe Maddon figured the rookie was over it, too.

“I think going through that Futures Game may have done it for him,” Maddon said. “It’s always exciting for a guy to go back home. It can also be stressful.”

Schwarber has proven he can hit. Maddon said he has improved a lot with his catching since spring training.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Schwarber said. “I’m not a complete product at all.”

After years of watching Reds players from the stands, he got a chance to crouch behind the plate as they came to bat and then try to figure out how to get them out.

“It’s an awesome experience to be able to come down and watch these guys play the game, to be able to watch guys like Votto and (Jay) Bruce and (Todd) Frazier do their thing,” he said. “Now that I’m here and getting a chance to play against them, it’s a good thing.”