Kyle Schwarber is a pretty inconspicuous guy, despite his success throughout all levels of baseball. In a T-shirt and baseball hat, he blends in with the crowd. If you’re trying to find him, you have to know what you’re looking for.
Schwarber doesn’t go out of his way to draw attention to himself, and yet it comes regardless. The combination of his ability to hit the cover off the baseball, the success he brings to any team he plays for and his down-to-earth, approachable personality make him someone everyone wants to be around.
So when he arrived on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium during Indiana football’s game against Wisconsin, the excitement was palpable.
Whispers of “Kyle Schwarber is over there” spread around the north end zone as the Hoosier alumnus stood with the rest of the 2013 Indiana baseball team, waiting to be honored for the 10-year anniversary of their trip to the College World Series.
Schwarber posed for pictures, signed memorabilia and did push ups with Army ROTC cadets, all with a smile on his face. He humbly welcomed the recognition, well aware of what he means to the IU community and baseball fans.
“It’s fantastic (being back),” Schwarber said after the team was recognized. “We did something really cool here."
Schwarber was an instrumental piece in the Hoosiers’ success in 2013, as they won a modern-era record 49 games, took home the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and reached the College World Series for the first and only time in program history. The team made it to the second round of the World Series before losing to Mississippi State and Oregon State.
Foreshadowing his future success, Schwarber led the team with 18 home runs — a collegiate career high — and a .647 slugging percentage. He was second on the team with a .366 batting average, and went on a 10-game postseason hitting streak to help the Hoosiers reach Omaha. Schwarber was also selected as the best catcher in the country by Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
In 2014, Schwarber became the highest draft pick in Indiana baseball history as he was selected fourth overall by the Chicago Cubs.
As the team walked onto the field Saturday, highlights from the World Series played on the video board — Schwarber was easily recognizable by his stature, which hasn’t changed much — and chants of “Kyle Schwarber” echoed throughout the stadium.
Schwarber’s name never came over the PA system and he was never singled out, but when he appeared on the screen the crowd roared. The Ohio native is one of the most recognizable Indiana alumni, and his clear appreciation for IU represents the familial nature of the athletics program and university as a whole.
So it wasn’t a surprise that, even though the team hasn’t necessarily kept in very close contact since they parted ways, nobody missed a beat when they reunited.
“That’s how it is here at Indiana, that we want to create that culture of brotherhood, sisterhood, whatever it is,” he said. “That we’re all family wherever we go. Being in Chicago for a long time, you hear ‘Go Hoosiers,’ being in Philly, being wherever, you hear ‘Go Hoosiers.’ It’s all the time. That’s what it is, we’re all a big family.”
It wasn’t the first time Schwarber returned to Bloomington since he was drafted in 2014; he was even an honorary captain at Indiana men’s basketball’s game against UNC in 2016. But reuniting with the 2013 team brought a rare chance to relive those special moments with the ones who were there with him.
“It was just so special for all of us,” Schwarber said. “To have that bond with all these guys, and just going through the old house, going through where we lived at, everything like that.”
Among those memories, one in particular stood out as Schwarber stood alongside his teammates on the football field.
“Looking at the stadium, I remember running these stadium stairs all the time,” Schwarber said with a laugh.
The stair-running may be long over with, but it’s clear the memories will never fade. And while Schwarber got to spend the weekend with his baseball family, he also got to share it with other very important people in his life, making it even more meaningful.
“Having my family here now, showing my kid where Dad played baseball, you know, it’s really cool,” Schwarber said, smiling.
Schwarber has a lot he can tell his son about, as he flourished during his college career at Indiana and in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he led the Wareham Gatemen to the 2012 CCBL Championship. He represented Indiana well in the Cape, and even though he’s nine years removed from wearing “Hoosiers” on his chest, Schwarber continues to represent Indiana baseball in the best way, on the biggest stage.
He has reached multiple World Series — and helped the Cubs end their 108-year championship drought in 2016 — is a two-time MLB All Star, winner of the Silver Slugger Award and always seems to be in contention for some sort of home run record.
But no matter what he achieves, Schwarber said he will always look back on his time at Indiana as one of the most amazing parts of his career.
“I’d do it all over again,” he said. “It was…it’s amazing. It really is. This campus, this university, the athletic department, the baseball team. Fantastic.”