'Close to home' cause earns Schwarber a Clemente Award nomination

September 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If  did not mash baseballs for a living, he figures he would be in the family business, too.

Schwarber’s father, Greg, was a longtime police officer and police chief in their hometown of Middletown, Ohio. His mother, Donna, was a police dispatcher before she became a registered nurse. His sister, Lindsey, served in the Army National Guard before she became a police officer in Middletown. Her boyfriend is a police officer there, too.

“It’s close to home,” Schwarber said.

Schwarber is one of 30 nominees for the 2023 Roberto Clemente Award because of his work with Schwarber’s Neighborhood Heroes, which started in 2017 “to express gratitude for the unique sacrifices of first responders and their families by creating positive experiences, as well as funding wellness, education and crisis needs for first-responder families.” The program has raised more than $625,000 in grants since its inception.

“Luckily, the baseball thing worked out, but it’s something I would have done,” Schwarber said about being a first responder. “I was pretty set on that. I was really drawn into the military when I was young. I thought about doing ROTC in college. But now that I’ve got this platform, I have the chance to represent my family and what they do. I get to say, 'thanks.' There are a lot of really good things out there. There are a lot of things that go unseen. There is mental health, there is support for families.

“Some families aren’t fortunate enough to have their loved one around anymore. Growing up, I was lucky. My dad always came home. I got a regular childhood. Then, you start going around and you start seeing things. The fallen Temple police officer [Christopher Fitzgerald]. We brought his family here [in April]. You see and hear those stories. Some kids are old enough to understand what happened. Some kids aren’t. But we try to help those people.”

Schwarber’s Neighborhood Heroes hosted a block party on Sunday at Yard’s Brewing in Philadelphia. The event benefited The Philadelphia Police Foundation; The Philadelphia Fire Department Foundation; Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the families of fallen and critically injured first responders; TAPS, a national nonprofit providing care and resources for those grieving the deaths of a military or veteran loved one; and Team Foster, a nonprofit that works for the unmet needs of injured and disabled veterans by bringing together civilians, veterans and highly trained service dogs.

Rhys Hoskins and Dave Dombrowski on Sunday paid to have a service dog trained for an individual at the event.

Schwarber said he still remembers going to canine competitions with his dad. In one event, the dogs have to find a person hiding in one of three boxes.

Schwarber was often the person in the box.

“I was probably 10 [years old], going to those dog competitions,” Schwarber said, smiling. “I remember my dad picking me up from school all the time. We’d be about to go home, and he’d say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to stay in the car. I’ve got to make a pitstop [at a scene] real quick.’ I got my first clubhouse feeling from being inside the police department, seeing all the men and women in there. They were throwing jabs, but they were family. They all worked together. I got a taste of that before I came into the baseball world.”

And now that he is in the baseball world, he wants to make sure his other world is taken care of. Fans can vote for the Roberto Clemente Award winner here.