Locals rooting for Middletown native Kyle Schwarber in World Series

Kyle Schwarber, a Middletown native who plays for the Chicago Cubs, reacts after hitting a double during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series on Oct. 25. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Kyle Schwarber, a Middletown native who plays for the Chicago Cubs, reacts after hitting a double during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series on Oct. 25. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Locals who know Kyle Schwarber said they’re not surprised by the Miracle Medical Man’s recovery.

In the third game of the regular season, Schwarber, playing left field for the Chicago Cubs, suffered a left knee injury that was supposed to sideline him until Spring Training 2017. He was declared out for the season by the Cubs after undergoing surgery to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament and a repair of his lateral collateral ligament April 19 in Dallas.

But on Tuesday night, as the Chicago Cubs played in their first World Series in 108 years, Schwarber was used as a designated hitter and went 1 for 3 with a towering double in the Cubs 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

In Middletown, where Schwarber grew up, the son of the city’s police chief, Greg Schwarber, many said if anyone could recover from such a debilitating injury, it was Schwarber.

“Work ethic,” said Don “Woody” Withrow when asked how Schwarber recovered so quickly. “No one works harder. It started here, continued in college and with the Cubs.”

Before Schwarber was activated, he went to the Cubs’ facility in Arizona and on Saturday played his first game in 6½ months, for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. He went 0 for 3 with a walk. On Monday, he played his second game, going 1 for 3 with a walk and a double. Then he took a private jet to Cleveland in time for the World Series.

Withrow, who followed Schwarber throughout his three-year college baseball career at Indiana University, said he was “heartbroken” when Schwarber was injured so early in the season. Many thought Schwarber, 23, who blasted 16 home runs in 232 at-bats as a rookie last season and five more during the playoffs, would be the cornerstone of the Cubs’ offense this season.

Few expected the Cubs to make the playoffs — let alone the World Series — without Schwarber’s bat.

Withrow said he certainly never thought he’d see Schwarber in the World Series, especially this year.

“I can’t dream that big,” Withrow said. “Not even me.”

One of Middletown’s biggest Cubs fans, Gary Lebo, watched Schwarber throughout his high school career. A former athletic trainer and athletic director, Lebo serves as the city school district’s administrative site specialist, overseeing the construction of the new junior high school.

Lebo said he was “thrilled, absolutely thrilled” when he heard Schwarber was cleared by the team physicians and placed on the World Series roster.

He realize it was a “longshot” for Schwarber to play this season.

“That just shows the character he has,” Lebo said of the 2011 Middletown High School graduate.

He so much wanted Schwarber to homer in Game 1, especially after Fox commentator Pete Rose predicted Schwarber would strike out three times. Schwarber doubled in his second at bat, making him the first player to go hitless in the regular season, then get a hit in the World Series.

“I wanted him to show that Kyle is back,” Lebo said.

In June 2015, Schwarber made his first start as a designated hitter and finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the Chicago Cubs 17-0 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Cubs fans are hoping for a repeat performance.

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