6/5 Cubs pick C Kyle Schwarber
With the fourth pick overall in the First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs selected Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber. It’s the third straight year the Cubs have taken a position player in the first round. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein chose outfielder Albert Almora in 2012 and third baseman Kris Bryant in 2013.
One of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, presented to the top Division I catcher in the country, Schwarber batted .358 with 14 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .659 slugging percentage his junior year at Indiana. In his final eight games for the Hoosers, he batted .469 (15-for-32) with four home runs, 12 RBIs and a .938 slugging percentage. He was named the Big Ten tournament’s most outstanding player and selected to the all-tournament team at the NCAA Bloomington Regional.
A native of Middletown, Ohio, the junior was majoring in recreational sports management at Indiana. In high school, he was a four-time MVP, and second team All-Ohio linebacker.
“I was 8 or 10, and I was a catcher,” Schwarber told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “and my grandmother said to me, ‘I want you to be like Johnny Bench.’ I said, ‘Who’s Johnny Bench?’ She said, ‘The best catcher to ever play the game.’ She told me all about him.”
Schwarber did meet Bench during a national tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., and had a picture taken with the Hall of Famer.
He was not drafted out of high school.
“In football, the middle linebacker is the field captain, and it’s the same for a catcher in baseball — you’re the field manager,” he told the Enquirer. “You control the staff — they trust you, and you trust them — and you have to know where everyone’s playing. You direct. It’s a big responsibility. I love it.”
Hoosiers baseball coach Tracy Smith’s wife, Jamie, is from Middletown, and urged her husband to look at the catcher.
“It’s still amazing when I think back to recruiting him,” Smith told the Indianapolis Star last year. “It wasn’t like we had to beat out a bunch of people to get him. He was a relatively unknown player, thank goodness.”
Whether Schwarber will be a catcher in the big leagues remains to be seen. He loves the role.
“Catching is what I really want to be doing,” he said. “There’s no other position I want to play. I like catching because it’s down and dirty and gritty. It’s an awesome position.”
In 2013, he was selected the best catcher in the country by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He actually became a catcher because of his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, he said he couldn’t focus at any other position.
“I was the kid who was all over the place, left and right,” Schwarberg said.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.
– Carrie Muskat