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Schwarber inspired by first responders

Cubs outfielder honors heroes through foundation, visits firefighters
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- If Kyle Schwarber wasn't a Major League ballplayer, he would probably be a Navy Seal. Or maybe he would have followed his dad, Greg, and become a police officer. The Cubs outfielder knows the risks and the sacrifices his father made, which is why he's trying to honor first responders through his Neighborhood Heroes campaign.

"This is a big deal to me," Schwarber said of the program. "I grew up in it. Now that I'm in a spot to where I can do something for these people and kick it off this year, it's really cool for me.

CHICAGO -- If Kyle Schwarber wasn't a Major League ballplayer, he would probably be a Navy Seal. Or maybe he would have followed his dad, Greg, and become a police officer. The Cubs outfielder knows the risks and the sacrifices his father made, which is why he's trying to honor first responders through his Neighborhood Heroes campaign.

"This is a big deal to me," Schwarber said of the program. "I grew up in it. Now that I'm in a spot to where I can do something for these people and kick it off this year, it's really cool for me.

"There's a lot of good out there," he said. "A lot of good goes unseen. That's another reason to do it. A lot of good goes unseen, and if I can maybe shed some light on that, it'll be cool."

So far, Schwarber, 24, has hosted first responders at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, brought gifts to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and had lunch with firefighters at Chicago Fire Department Engine 112. On Sept. 10, he will host his inaugural fundraiser, Schwarber's Block Party, to help raise funds for first responders.

Schwarber's father, who is retired after 30-plus years with the Middletown (Ohio) Police Department, would tell Kyle stories about the job -- and the danger involved.

"He wasn't shy to talk about it," Schwarber said. "There'd be times when I was in college and I was going to Cape Cod, or whenever we went on long road trips, I'd have him tell me stories about his funniest [incidents] or the scariest ones. He'd talk about it.

"Luckily, in his days, I know for a fact, he never had to fire his weapon once," Schwarber said. "Through 30 years of police work, that's pretty good."

It wasn't all smooth. Greg Schwarber was hit head-on by a drunk driver when Kyle was in high school, and he suffered a concussion and a fractured sternum.

"He's gone through things and he's faced some adversity, too," Kyle said. "He's always been a guy I looked up to."

And Greg Schwarber is the inspiration for his son's foundation. Kyle Schwarber met with the CFD Engine 112 group last week.

"Having lunch with those guys was a really big deal," Schwarber said. "Those guys take pride in their time. They're on call for 24 hours. Whenever they get that break and they're able to sit down and eat lunch -- they cook it all themselves. It could be their last one. They made it very clear to me this could be one of the last meals they eat. You just never know."

That the reality of their jobs. And because the firefighters are aware of that, it helps them work together and develop camaraderie.

"It's like a big family in there," Schwarber said. "That's what I've realized in being able to visit the three groups I've seen. It's all family. It's like the clubhouse here. That's why I have a lot of admiration for those people."

Schwarber's father isn't the only one. His mother was a police dispatcher. His sister, Lindsey, served in the Army National Guard and went to Bahrain. She's now a police officer in Ohio. She'll be at Schwarber's fundraiser, which will be a casual event. Expect to see Schwarber in jeans, a T-shirt and boots.

"This is me, and that's how I want it to be," Schwarber said. "That's how these guys are -- rugged and go out there and grind it out every day."

And if Schwarber wasn't hitting home runs or patrolling left field for the Cubs, where would he be?

"I would've probably been in the military, to be honest," he said. "I got into watching Navy Seals and stuff like that, the true hardcore guys. I said, 'That looks like so much fun' -- not fun, but it looks challenging and something I would want to challenge myself with.

"It worked out with baseball," Schwarber said. "I always talk about it, too. I always talk about it with my dad -- I said, 'If baseball doesn't work out, maybe I'll join the military and be a policeman.'"

His father would support him.

"He knows people have to do their duty," Schwarber said of his father. "He just wants them to be safe."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber