GENEVA, Ill. - Kyle Schwarber has been surprising people his entire baseball life.
Why not keep the trend going?
Many scouts and experts around the game question if the Cubs' first-round pick can stick at catcher in professional baseball. If he is going to make it as a backstop, he's in a good spot with Class-A Kane County, where former big-league catcher Mark Johnson is the manager.
"I'm very excited to work with him behind the plate," Johnson said before Schwarber started in left field for his Cougars debut Thursday. "We saw him in [the spring] for one game and we both thought that was something there that we could work with behind the plate.
"We're not just going to throw him in left field and use him for nothing but his bat. He's a good athlete. He can move around and I think he's going to be more versatile than a lot of people make him out to be."
The Cubs are going to have Schwarber play outfield and DH for most of his time in Kane County, while catching maybe once a week.
"They're more worried about him getting his at-bats and playing," Johnson said. "They'll kind of figure out what path they're going to take with him. You can't really give up on a guy catching. It's a rare commodity and tough to find nowadays.
"You also have that bat you've gotta worry about. If you catch, that bat is going to go down a little bit. It's something you go down the road and dig into a little bit. Instructional League is a perfect time to do it."
Johnson was a former first-round pick of the White Sox back in 1994 and played for five years on the South Side before finishing up in the Cubs' system in 2010. With 327 big-league games behind the dish, Johnson is a good voice to ease Schwarber in to the professional game.
Schwarber was not highly recruited out of Middletown High School, but made his mark at Indiana University, hitting .341 with 40 homers and 149 RBI in three seasons while becoming a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, honoring the best catcher in the country.
For his part, Schwarber said he doesn't care where he plays, but he knows he was drafted more for his bat than his glove.
"That's what I want to improve on - defense," he said, while managing the large media scrum at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. "I want to be a player that can contribute every day. And if I want to do that, I need to work on some things and there is always room to improve."
Schwarber played some outfield at Indiana and played two games in left field with short-season Boise to start his professional career.
"You just have to approach the day like any other day," he said. "You get your early work in, whether that's outfield or catching, hitting, whatever it is. Just approach the day as you would any other day, work hard and good things will happen."