NEW YORK — Kyle Schwarber is hitting big home runs. He’s hitting long ones that land on video boards, in rivers and carry 458 feet into center field seating sections.
In the postseason.
As a rookie.
So it’s quite something to watch, this stocky 6-foot, 235-pound 22-year-old who can slug and run well, too, “a great athlete trapped in an unconventional body” as Cubs president Theo Epstein says of the rookie who was picked fourth overall out of Indiana University two drafts ago.
Sixteen months later, in the Cubs’ Game 1 loss to the Mets in the NLCS Saturday night in New York, Schwarber became one of four players to hit four postseason homers before turning 23. The others? Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper, Andruw Jones, Mickey Mantle.
Select company, to be sure.
“He’s pretty much not overwhelmed by anything,’’ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. “I don’t think he takes himself too seriously. Have you all seen that YouTube video with him dancing with was it his high school group?’’
The one that became something of an internet sensation, of Schwarber busting dance moves, wearing a suit on a stage in high school?
“He’s like part of The Temptations or The Spinners or The Four Tops,’’ Maddon said. “He’s like the lead dancer. I love that. That speaks to everything for me. The fact that he’d have the nerve to be out front like that and going through this whole routine, front guy. I think that speaks a lot of him walking out here last night and being very comfortable and making two great plays, hitting a ball 459 feet, whatever. He’s just very comfortable in his own skin.’’
And he can hit. His short, compact swing from the left side, with a disciplined approach, made Cubs scouts and brass like Epstein fall in love with him.
“He’s a good baseball player,’’ Maddon said. “Don’t be deceived by maybe body structure, whatever. This guy’s a good athlete. He’s got a good mind for the game. He asks good questions. His work ethic is unbelievable.’’
Maddon also spoke to Schwarber’s diligent work ethic and his level head. The success, if it continues, might not get to him.
“He’s a different cat,’’ Maddon said. “He’s got a tremendous motor, and he’s not overwhelmed by anything. I think he’s definitely a present tense guy. He doesn’t get caught up in all the minutiae. Pretty solid.’’
Schwarber produced a .246/.355/.487 slash line in 69 games his rookie season, becoming the first Cub to hit 16 homers in his first 52 games. He went into Game 2 of the National League Championship Series having gone 8-for-17 with four homers and six RBI.
He homered and drove in three runs in the 4-0 Wild Card victory over Pittsburgh and hit a solo homer in the Game 4 NLDS clincher against St. Louis that landed on the video board. The ball is still there, in a case, a piece of Cubs history.
He parked one in Game 1 of the NLCS, too, estimated at 458 feet, against Matt Harvey, the star of the night.
“It’s super impressive,” veteran teammate David Ross said at Sunday’s pregame press conference. “At this stage I’m not shocked anymore because I’ve seen it for so long with all these guys and how they come up in the big moments and the big moments don’t affect them, especially emotionally.
“But a guy like Kyle, man, again, personality along with talent, it’s very impressive to watch on a nightly basis. And the stage isn’t too big. The stage isn’t too big for him. You see it over and over again. Doesn’t matter who is pitching, some really good pitchers, he’s gotten some big hits off of, and he can really hit it a long way.
“It’s given me a complex about how bad I am to be honest with you,’’ he said, drawing laughter from the audience.’’