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Schwarber off the bus, into the lineup for Cougars

Cubs' 1st-rounder joins mix after quick promotion

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:29 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided by Indiana University Athletics)
Former Indiana standout Kyle Schwarber, the parent Cubs’ first-round draft pick earlier this month, is expected to make his Cougars’ debut when the team hosts Cedar Rapids tonight.

Kyle Schwarber mastered the Short-A Northwest League in five games and 22 plate appearances, batting .600 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.

The parent Cubs swiftly promoted the fourth overall pick in this month’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft from Boise to the Class-A Cougars on Tuesday, albeit before Schwarber could collect one more big number.

He just missed that inaugural 10-hour road trip to Eugene, Oregon.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get out of town fast enough on that bus to keep him with us,” Boise manager Gary Van Tol said. “We were just pulling out of the parking lot, actually, when I got the call.”

Schwarber grabbed his bags and shuttled his 6-foot, 240-pound frame toward the door, moving past high fives and well-wishes from the Hawks with whom he shared a clubhouse for about a week.

Expect a similar reception from his new teammates – if not a likely throng of fans – as Schwarber prepares for his expected Cougars debut at 6:30 p.m. today against visiting Cedar Rapids.

A catcher/outfielder, Schwarber batted .358 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 59 games in his junior season at Indiana. He signed with the Cubs for $3.125 million June 11, six days after he was drafted, and joined Boise just in time for the team’s season opener Friday.

“That in itself is very uncommon nowadays for a guy to go that high in the draft, and he just wants to play,” Van Tol said. “And that speaks highly of himself and obviously that speaks highly of the front office and what they think of him.”

Last season, 18th-round infielder Giuseppe Papaccio was the first member of the Cubs’ 2013 draft class to join the Cougars, coming to the club July 4.

Van Tol said Schwarber feels most comfortable at catcher, where he played in his professional debut, smacking a go-ahead, three-run home run in the seventh inning against the Tri-City Dust Devils.

However, the organization isn’t shy about accelerating Schwarber’s development in the outfield, and Van Tol lauded a handful of ranging plays Schwarber made as the Hawks’ left fielder in his final two games at Short-A.

Schwarber will become the highest overall draft pick to play for the Cougars since Adrian Gonzalez, the No. 1 selection in 2000, started at first base for the 2001 Midwest League champions.

Out of this World: Several Cougars stoked the blaze of patriotic tweets Monday as the U.S. men’s national soccer team opened World Cup group play with a riveting 2-1 victory against Ghana.

Such enthusiasm bodes well for today’s “World Cup Soccer Night” promotion, which includes a replica U.S. jersey T-shirt giveaway to the first 1,500 fans age 14 and under.

A few players are veterans of international baseball, which debuted its version of the World Cup with the World Baseball Classic in 2006. Jen-Ho Tseng pitched one inning for Chinese Taipei in the 2013 Classic.

Fellow righty Tyler Bremer started against Chinese Taipei and Cuba as part of a Team USA age group event in the Netherlands a few years ago.

“That was a culture shock, for sure,” Bremer said. “Just seeing how the fans react. Dancing in the stands and stuff like that. That was probably my most fond baseball moment in terms of playing somewhere special like that.”

Homing device: The Cougars play 17 of their first 27 games of the second half at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. The club went 28-7 at home before the All-Star break, sparking optimism for a repeat performance after winning the first-half Western Division title.

“We don’t want to coast or be content or anything,” outfielder Shawon Dunston said. “Take it to them in the second half, and hopefully you win that and then go win in the playoffs.”

Playoff tickets for the Cougars’ Western Division semifinal will go on sale at 9 a.m. today. The Cougars will host Game 2 of the best-of-three series at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, and also would play host to a possible third game at the same time the next night.

For information, contact the Cougars’ ticket office at 630-232-8811 or log on to www.kccougars.com.

First look

A list of notable first-round draft picks to play for the Cougars:

Charles Johnson, 1993 Mark Kotsay, 1996 Josh Beckett, 2000 Adrian Gonzalez, 2001 Joe Blanton, 2003 Jemile Weeks, 2008 Kyle Zimmer, 2012 Albert Almora, 2013

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