Emotional return for Chicago Cubs' Schwarber
CLEVELAND -- There was no masking how much Tuesday and Game 1 of the World Series meant to Kyle Schwarber.
"I would say it probably hasn't hit," he said. "I'd say probably once I hit that line, that a lot of emotions will come pouring out. I'll probably cry at some point today. It was a long road, but once we step in between those lines, it's game time."
Schwarber had not played in a major-league baseball game since the first week of April, when he suffered a serious knee injury while colliding with center fielder Dexter Fowler as both played a flyball at Chase Field in Arizona.
But there he was Tuesday, getting ready to serve as the Cubs' designated hitter in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Make no mistake: Schwarber absolutely hammered his rehab, working hours a day to regain the strength in his left knee after tearing his ACL and MCL.
As determined as he was to get back, it wasn't until recently that a postseason return was in the realm of possibility.
"I'd probably say about six days ago," he said, referring to his sixth-month checkup last week in Dallas. "The plan was pretty much the whole time that it was going to be spring training (next year for his return). I took regular visits to the doctor every month or two, and he kept telling me, 'It's going to be spring training.'
"Then this past doctor's visit I had right before we went to L.A. For the (NLCS), he looked at my knee. He's like, 'Man, it's great. You're strong. I'm not going to hold you back from doing anything."
Schwarber immediately called team president Theo Epstein to tell him the good news and ask if he could head to Arizona to test it. That he did, at the Cubs' facility in Mesa and in the Arizona Fall League.
He could hit. He could run the bases. He could even slide. So the Cubs activated him and made him the DH for the games at Cleveland.
"Awkward in the best way," said manager Joe Maddon about writing Schwarber's name into the lineup card. "Never did anticipate it. We've been talking about it the last couple of days.
"Every time I see him, 'Hang in there, it's going to be good. I know you're going to miss this stuff. We'd love to have you.' That's been the conversation every day in the dugout.
"A couple days ago, 'Schwarber's feeling good, and he's going to go hit. Oh, really?' Then he goes down there. I watch the video. And he looks normal.
"Obviously, it's not easy to do what we're asking him to do tonight. However, I do believe, through personal experience, even when you've laid off for a while like that and you come back and you are heathy … and he's good. Personally, he's a lot better than I could imagine. I think the game is going to be slower to him than you would anticipate. And I think the ball is going to be bigger."
The plan has been for Schwarber not to play defense at all in the World Series. Maddon said he wanted to "keep an open mind" about it, but Epstein said, "Right now, it's not something that we're contemplating, but we didn't think we'd be here, in this position, either. We'll see how he feels and how he does. If it's appropriate, we can always go back to the doctors and take a fresh look at it."
As for Schwarber, he was thankful for the support he received from his teammates.
"Those guys were my big rock throughout this whole thing," he said. "I didn't really want to get in their way too much. I don't want to take up room. You want to be there and help these guys, put smiles on their faces, but that's what they were doing for me, really. They were there to comfort me throughout the whole ride, and I can't thank them enough."