The poor baseball must have been terrified.
One day, you’re on a conveyor belt in some factory somewhere, minding your own business. You know your fate. You’re going to be put into a box, shipped off someplace warm to be used for a divine cause.
You can’t know exactly where you’ll end up. Some balls get sent to a high school in Topeka, some get sent to community colleges or even perhaps a Division 1 school. Some get to roll around in a minor league stadium, being hit and thrown by players honing their craft in an attempt to achieve their big league dreams.
Even if you reach the Major Leagues, you’re not guaranteed anything more than an anonymous existence. How many baseballs get used in practice, day after day, fodder for fungoes and batting practice and bullpen sessions? How many make it into an actual game and, of those, how many aren’t simply fouled off after one or two throws, a time barely long enough to make an impact. It’s as if you weren’t there at all.
Then, there are the baseballs that are used during Kyle Schwarber’s at-bats.
If you’re one of the lucky few to find yourself nestled in the glove of a fearful hurler as the Phils’ hulking lefty slugger comes to the plate — suddenly, there’s a chance to be part of something special.
In their series opener in Atlanta, the Phillies won 7-1. It was a great game. Zack Wheeler went six innings and dominated the best offense in baseball. Five Phillies hit dingers, including Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, and, of all people, Johan Rojas.
But it was Schwarber’s 45th home run of the season that left mouths agape.
No one knows where that baseball ended up. Perhaps it’s nestled under the tire of a parked car in the Truist Stadium outfield lot, exhausted from its terrifying journey through the Atlanta night sky, basking in the knowledge it was part of a moment fans won’t soon forget. The 483-foot blast was the second-longest home run ever hit in that ballpark, and was five feet short of Schwarber’s titanic blast in San Diego in Game 2 of the NLCS last season.
In fact, here are Schwarber’s 10 longest home runs in a Phillies uniform, including last night’s missile.
We’re running out of words to describe this unique player.
It’s fitting that Schwarber hit this blast with Ryan Howard in the stands. The Phils legend holds the record for the longest homer in Citizens Bank Park history.
Greatness appreciates greatness, and the Phillies have had a tremendous history with sluggers. So many have walked through their clubhouse doors and it’s appropriate to classify Schwarber as one of them.
But how high on the list is he?
You can’t argue with Mike Schmidt as No. 1 where he’ll likely always be. Howard is probably No. 2, he of the 382 career home runs. Greg Luzinski is seventh on the Phils all-time home run list (223) but in terms of pure slugging, few could top “The Bull.” And Dick Allen, Rhys Hoskins, Chuck Klein — all make a great case.
The most interesting comparison is Jim Thome.
On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, we discussed where Schwarber ranks among all-time Phils sluggers, and whether we should have him ahead of Thome in our minds.
That number is now 91, and that doesn’t even count the 2022 postseason. There are still 12 more games in the season, giving him an outside chance at becoming just the second player in team history to hit 50.
As great as Thome was in a Phillies uniform, he was essentially a star for just two seasons — 2003 and ‘04. In 2005, Thome got hurt, Howard replaced him in the lineup, and Thome was traded not long after. He came back in 2012 for a brief swan song, but it’s hard to argue that Schwarber hasn’t supplanted him in terms of Phillies’ sluggers.
Not that any of this matters. Thome was awesome and so is Schwarber. Thome was the better all-around player, but we should note that what Schwarber has done in his first two seasons is historic.
No one has pounded baseballs in his first two seasons in red and white pinstripes like Kyle.