It no longer defies imagination, but assaults the senses, wondering how sheer and utter fantasy could become reality.
How in the world could a baseball player spend six months just learning to walk again after a devastating knee injury, not playing in a single game, and lead the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series victory since 1945, with a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, evening the Series at 1-game apiece?
“It’s the ‘Legend of Kyle Schwarber,’ ” catcher David Ross said.
“I can’t even describe what he’s doing right now,” said left fielder Ben Zobrist, who’s hitting .625 this series and is like a back-drop to center stage. “No one’s ever seen anything like it.”
There has never been a position player in baseball history whose first hit of the season was in the World Series until Schwarber came along. He doubled off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, and then went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a walk in Wednesday’s victory.
This is a guy who had no hits in four at-bats in April before he blew out his left knee. He had one hit in eight at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Now, on baseball’s greatest stage, he is hitting .429, reaching base five times in nine at-bats, with a double, two singles and two RBI.
“Baseball’s a crazy game,” Schwarber said. “It will do crazy things to you.”
So crazy, that he went along with the Cubs’ narrative, that he would be out for the season. When you tear two knee ligaments, no one expects to see you until next season. If he had only sustained the injury earlier, maybe in spring training, he’d have a chance, but not during the season.
And even if he was physically able to return before the end of the season, there would be no time for a minor-league rehab assignment, no time to get down his timing, no time to see major-league pitching.
“That’s why we’re calling it ‘The Legend of Kyle Schwarber,’ ” Ross said. “That’s who does this. It just blows my mind what he’s doing. He’s doing things that are unheard of.”
Yet, on baseball’s biggest stage, in front of millions on national TV, Schwarber is turning the World Series into his own reality TV show.
Watch Schwarber become the Cubs’ first DH in World Series history. Watch Schwarber hit. Watch Schwarber run. Watch Schwarber drive in two runs.
Oh, and if you need to tug at the heartstrings too, watch Schwarber become emotional talking about his 10-year-old friend, Campbell Faulkner of Cave Creek, Ariz.
Faulkner, diagnosed with a rare form of mitochondrial disease, has a team of 13 doctors. He struggles to stand and walk for extended periods of time. He needs two feeding tubes in his stomach just to provide him with nutrition. He missed nearly 100 days of school last year because of his illness and doctor appointments.
Schwarber met him in spring training and saw him last weekend before meeting the Cubs in the World Series. Faulkner is his friend, and Schwarber wears a bright green wristband in his honor to make those aware of the disease.
“Really young, smart kid, and he’s just always got a big smile on his face,” Schwarber said. “You know, that draws your attention to him. He’s living life to his fullest, even though he’s got something to overcome.
“He’s just a good kid. How could you not like him?”
Stay tuned. The sequel is Friday, the first World Series night game in Wrigley Field history.
“They are going to go nuts,” Ross said.
—Bob Nightengale, USA Today, 10/27/16