The folks who don’t understand the headline are probably shaking their heads in dismay right now, but I bet the ones who get it are…also shaking their heads in dismay. C’mon though, you’ve got to admit that you really want to like it. I mean, if Cubs Twitter ever institutes a punning contest in Spring Training, I think this header alone scores me a top-4 seed. But I digress.
Those of you unfamiliar with the action/fantasy HBO series Game of Thrones would do well to acquaint yourselves. If, that is, you’re into castles and kingdoms and graphic violence mixed with dragons and zombies and more violence. In any case, the show’s first season features a character named Khal Drogo, a badass warrior chieftain played by Jason Momoa.
Drogo is a Dothraki, a race of nomadic horselords divided into many clans — each with its own khal — who roam the plains of Essos, which is just across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. Dothraki legend holds that one day a khal will emerge who will be powerful enough to unite his people and become the Stallion Who Mounts the World. Still with me after that little primer? Good, let’s move on.
Looking to engage in some badassery of his own, Kyle (or is it Khal?) Schwarber started behind the plate Wednesday night and was tasked with catching new Cubs starter Dan Haren. He acquitted himself fairly well back there, but he could be somewhat of a butcher and still make up for it with his bat. Schwarber was at it again, going 2-for-4 off of Pirates starter Jeff Locke, a lefty no less.
His double to lead off the 3rd was his first extra-base hit against a southpaw this season and he would later advance to third on a wild pitch before tagging and scoring on an Anthony Rizzo sac fly. In his next at-bat, Schwarber managed to collect his second big hit against a lefty…
My first thought was that this was just a routine pop-up to center, but then Andrew McCutchen kept drifting back…and back…and back all the way to the wall, where he finally made a futile attempt to snag the ball that dropped just into the seats a ways to the right of the batter’s eye. I should have known better than to doubt Schwarber though; the kid’s got power for days.
As if watching it happen wasn’t enough to make me realize just what a towering shot it was, trying to freeze the video in order to capture the featured image above certainly drove it home. I took me no less than a dozen attempts to pause the shot after contact and with the ball still in the frame. The monster blink-and-you’ll-miss-it uppercut swing sent the ball arcing on the kind of trajectory normally reserved for Aramis Ramirez “silo homers,” those balls that kiss the stratosphere before falling back to earth and landing safely in the shortstop’s glove.
No one’s unseating Anthony Rizzo — who went yard later in the 7th inning to tie the game — from the Iron Throne anytime soon, but Schwarber is starting to look like the kind of guy who could eventually wrest control if he so chose. But perhaps the best part about this young man is that he’s more interested in being a part of the team than in personal glory.
Just look at the way he’s celebrating in the dugout after Rizzo’s homer (you’ll want to watch the whole thing, but specifically the :14 and :40 marks).
The Dothraki wouldn’t think much of the young man’s close-cropped hair (their warriors only cut their hair off following a loss in battle), but opposing pitchers are quickly learning to fear his skill and power. Likewise, his teammates have quickly come to appreciate what he brings to the club.
These guys get paid a lot of money to play baseball, thus making it a business, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun out there as well. And in Schwarber, I see that Midwestern “aw, shucks” demeanor that you can’t help but smile about. Maybe that’s just me, but I think Schwarber’s going to be embraced heartily by Cubs fans as much for the way he carries himself as for the way he carries his team.