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The Derby was a blast, but Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber wants in on All-Star Game fun

WASHINGTON — Kyle Schwarber was tired, sore, spent. No regular old baseball game has ever left him feeling like he did Monday after sending 55 blasts — the second most in Home Run Derby history — deep into the Washington night.

The Cubs slugger was as giddy as he was gassed. Of all the big moments Schwarber has been a part of since debuting in the big leagues in 2015, his 21-homer semifinal against the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins and his showdown with Nationals superstar Bryce Harper in the final rank way up there in terms of pure fun.

Still, the cold tub beckoned. He might have some second thoughts before accepting his next Derby invitation.

“That might be one of the last times in a while,” he said. “That was challenging.”

Kyle Schwarber during Monday's Home Run Derby. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As Schwarber peeled off his sweaty Cubs uniform, several All-Stars were wearing their red National League jerseys in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. Schwarber, here to participate in the Derby only, hardly felt like an interloper. But it was impossible for him not to think about what it would be like to rub elbows with All-Stars as a teammate.

“I definitely want to be here,” he said. “I want to be here multiple times. Just to kind of get a taste of it makes you want to be here even more. It’s definitely something to work for every year.”

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Making an All-Star team — in 2019, perhaps? — would be a fitting next chapter for a 25-year-old player who already has experienced a career’s worth of highs and lows. Schwarber thundered onto the scene in 2015 and battered the rival Cardinals in the playoffs. He lost essentially the entire 2016 regular season to a major knee injury, then made a stirring World Series comeback that positioned him as a rising star. Then came the crash of 2017, when Schwarber was so lost at the plate that the Cubs demoted him to Class  AAA Iowa to try to figure things out.

His bounce-back from that has arguably been the most impressive of all. Several Cubs are on the ascent in 2018, most notably All-Star and MVP candidate Javy Baez. But no Cub has improved more than Schwarber — from his physical appearance to the intricacies of his hitting approach.

He’s seeing more pitches and walking far more often. He has become more difficult to strike out. The signature power is still there, but Schwarber’s efficiency as a hitter was among the most important developments of the Cubs’ first half. Did we mention his play in left field? Let’s just say it’s no longer the butt of daily jokes.

Schwarber can look around the Cubs clubhouse and find enough guys with All-Star experience to fill a lineup card. It’s a group he’d like to join, the sooner the better. Becoming a more complete hitter has put him on that track.

For one night, though, he forgot about all that and mashed.

“It was fun to be able to come out here and actually just let some stuff rip and get after it, but that’s definitely not how I’m going to approach my at-bats at all,” he said. “My at-bats are to try to stay short and compact and put the barrel on the ball.”

It almost sounds boring. In a good way.