Kyle Schwarber downplays physical transformation, but mental game might be key to resurgence

Tony Andracki
NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Schwarber may be 25-30 pounds lighter, but he's still the same ole Schwarber.

Carrying a drink into the media scrum at Cubs Convention Friday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, Schwarber got up in his ill-fitting sport coat looking svelte (he admitted he needs a new wardrobe now).

Yes, he lost weight. A lot of it.

Yes, he was asked about it. A lot.

Like usual, Schwarber hit all the right notes as he spoke in front of cameras for around 10 minutes, explaining he wants to be quicker on the basepaths and in the outfield and would like to become more agile overall as a player.

He also understands getting in The Best Shape of His Life doesn't automatically mean he'll have a better season than 2017.

"I want to be the best player I can be and I think it starts there," he said. "It's not gonna go out there and help me hit .500. You just gotta control what you can control and this is one thing I can control.

"People are making it out to be a big deal. It's just part of the job for me and I just want to keep getting better."

Overall, Schwarber downplayed his physical transformation, saying he wasn't just worried about getting into better baseball shape or to lose weight, instead striving to be healthier overall.

He said several times he was in the best shape of his life at this time last year when he was fully receovered from his devastating knee injury, but the slugging outfielder has taken that "shape" to the next level this winter.

And since it's Schwarber, it's taken off. Because things with Schwarber tend to do that.

But the physical transformation may not be anywhere near as important as the mental evolution Schwarber's gone through after finishing up back-to-back difficult seasons.

"I've seen a lot of stuff, I guess, the last couple years with just the injury and I got sent down to Triple-A," Schwarber said. "I have to work some things out. I guess I wouldn't take anything back from the last couple years.

"Obviously it wasn't where I wanted to be, but I think it's only going to be beneficial moving forward."

Schwarber isn't spending his offseason training his brain all that much differently ithan he has n the past. He's not doing yoga like Kyle Hendricks or spending time meditating.

But he is visualizing things when he's in the cage and you better believe he has a renewed hunger after the roller coaster career he's had already in just the first three seasons. He's seen it all now and can build off that experience moving forward.

This is the same guy who has had stories told about his mental strength and attitude at Cubs Convention the last couple years. His intestinal fortitude has now become legendary in Cubdom.

At this annual get-together a year ago, Cubs personnel could not stop talking about Schwarber. Everybody seemed to have their own great story and it was retold several times how he walked into the meeting with Theo Epstein's front office before the MLB Draft and won everybody over with his desire to prove doubters wrong. There were also plenty of stories about how he made that ridiculous return from a completely torn knee to play World Series hero.

Now, after a season in which he struggled to keep his batting average over .200, turned into a part-time player and was sent down to the minor leagues to work on his swing, he's still dominating the headlines. 

And once again, he's found a way to impress the Cubs front office.

"We were actually getting ready to ask him to [lose some weight] and to have some goals in mind and then he came to see us before we actually had a chance to meet with him and he laid out his goals for the offseason and how he was going to accomplish them," Epstein said. 

"Those are exactly what we had in mind, and we're really supportive of his efforts. We've talked about some of these things in the past: getting a little more flexible, getting in a bit more shape would allow him to be more effective in the outfield.

"And sometimes it takes - as he said - a whole lifestyle change, and you can't be forced into that. That has to come when you're ready for it. And he is really putting everything into this lifestyle change: the way he eats, the way he sleeps, the way he trains, the way he lives his life day to day.

"It's the type of changes that can allow you to have a really long career, maxmimize your career. So we're happy for him and excited to see what happens next."

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