As the Village People’s hit song “Y.M.C.A.” blasted through Wrigley Field’s speakers during a break in Saturday’s game, Kyle Schwarber could not help but dance.
The 6-foot, 235-pound slugger sat in the dugout and formed his arms into each letter as he sang along. When a camera caught him and showed him dancing on the video board, fans laughed and cheered.
“I didn’t realize that was on the video board,” Schwarber said with a sheepish grin.
It was a rare oversight from the big man during a memorable day at the plate. Schwarber crushed a 437-foot home run and drove in four runs as the Cubs cruised to a 9-0 win over the Reds.
Rene Rivera also homered as manager Joe Maddon used 21 players in the game. Many starters received an early rest with the playoff picture already set for the Cubs (92-69).
Schwarber’s blast marked his 30th home run of the season, a number that might have seemed impossible earlier this year as he scuffled at the plate and was demoted to Class AAA Iowa. He was hitting .171 with 12 home runs, 28 RBI and a .673 OPS in 64 games at the time of his June 22 demotion.
Since returning to the majors July 6, he has hit .256 with 18 home runs, 31 RBI and a .907 OPS in 64 games.
“Pretty crazy, isn’t it?” Maddon said when asked about Schwarber’s wild journey to 30 homers. “Good for him. Bully for him. That shows you the kind of talent that he has. He came back and really reconstructed himself.”
Schwarber is heating up at the right time as the Cubs prepare for their playoff opener Friday against the Nationals. He has six home runs in his past 15 games, during which time he is hitting .318 (14 of 44).
The long ball over the center-field ivy allowed Schwarber to join Anthony Rizzo as the only left-handed duo to hit 30-plus homers in a single season for the Cubs.
Personal accomplishments pale to what Schwarber hopes to achieve in October.
“Thirty homers is cool and everything,” Schwarber said. “I think it’d maybe be different if we weren’t in the playoffs or something like that. But I’m focused on trying to ramp up for the playoffs and be ready for that.”
Maddon is not surprised by such sentiments. He described Schwarber as a fighter.
“Give the guy real high marks for perseverance,” Maddon said. “I think maybe my expectations that I portrayed early on were maybe a little bit too high and I should have considered maybe more that he did not play at all last year. When you talk about [him], you don’t even think about that. You just think about postseason.”
By this point, Schwarber’s early season struggles seem to be behind him.
“This is my favorite time of year,” Schwarber said. “This is when it brings out the best in everyone.”
The Cubs’ lineup is deep, and Schwarber is not guaranteed a starting spot in every playoff game. He said he would be ready regardless of his role.
“It’s not going to affect my preparation at all,” Schwarber said. “I’m going to prepare like I’m in the lineup until I’m told that I’m not. And then, when I’m not, I’m going to prepare like the way I would be coming off the bench. This is that time of the year where you can’t get surprised by anything.”
Except maybe a camera while you dance in the dugout.
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