The link between Johnny Bench and the Cubs' first-round pick

The link between Johnny Bench and the Cubs' first-round pick
June 6, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

There are questions about whether Cubs first-round pick Kyle Schwarber can stick as a catcher in professional baseball, but if he does, he can thank Johnny Bench and his grandmother.

Bench, one of the greatest catchers of all-time, spent his entire 17-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, not far from where Schwarber and his family grew up in southwest Ohio.

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When he was still just a kid, Schwarber's grandmother educated him on Bench's impact on the game.

"I was 8 or 10 and I was a catcher and my grandmother said to me, 'I want you to be just like Johnny Bench,'" Schwarber said in a Cincinnati.com article. "I said, 'Who's Johnny Bench?' She said, 'The best catcher to ever play the game.' She told me all about him."

A few years down the road, Schwarber was playing in a national tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., when Bench stopped by. Schwarber didn't need his grandma's help identifying Bench and wound up taking a picture with the Hall of Famer.

In high school, Schwarber didn't garner much attention from professional or collegiate teams, but Indiana took a chance on him and he rewarded their faith with 39 homers and a .338 average during his IU career. The Cubs risked a fourth overall pick on the 6-foot, 230-pound slugger and hope his left-handed bat will move quickly through the system, even if he doesn't stick at catcher.

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For his part, though, Schwarber would like to remain behind the plate.

"Catching is what I really want to be doing," Schwarber told Cincinnati.com. "There's no other position I want to play. I like catching because it's down and dirty and gritty. It's an awesome position."