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Kyle Schwarber agreed to deal with Phillies and an hour later his wife went into labor: ‘The best day of my life’

The timing was chaotic, but in a sense, perfect. Schwarber is starting two major chapters in his life as a father and a Phillie.

Kyle Schwarber, who will wear No. 12, tries on his Phillies jersey during a news conference at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla., on Monday.
Kyle Schwarber, who will wear No. 12, tries on his Phillies jersey during a news conference at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla., on Monday.Read moreJose F. Moreno/ Staff Photographer

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It was a busy 48 hours for Kyle Schwarber. The free-agent outfielder reached a four-year, $79 million deal with the Phillies last Tuesday at around 10:30 p.m., and nearly an hour later, his wife, Paige, went into labor and had to be rushed to the hospital. He didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate his big payday.

“Luckily I didn’t take a sip of anything,” he said in a press conference on Monday, “so I could drive her to the [hospital]. It was definitely a whirlwind. But it was probably the best day of my life, to be able to sign that deal and then be able to go right to the hospital to see your kid being born. It’s crazy how you can fall in love with something so instantly. It was definitely the best day of my life.”

After Paige gave birth to the couple’s first child — Kade — Schwarber FaceTimed a good friend. It was Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long. He pointed the camera to Kade, who was curled up on his chest. “Look at this thing,” he told Long, with excitement.

The timing was chaotic, but in a sense, perfect. Schwarber is starting two major chapters in his life that will be on parallel tracks: one as a father and the other as a power-hitting left fielder for the Phillies.

The Phillies hope it will be a new chapter for them, as well. Schwarber has won at nearly every stop of his career, dating back to when he was in college at Indiana University. Of his seven years in the big leagues, six of them have brought postseason appearances. He says he’s become addicted to winning, and is eager to bring that addiction to Philadelphia, an organization that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011.

“I’m in the business of winning baseball games,” he said. “When you look at this team, from top to bottom lineup-wise, the rotation, the bullpen, this team is a very good ballclub. We’re built to win the East, we’re built to go deep into the playoffs, and that’s what you look for. That’s where you want to be.

“I’ve only won in my career. I think I’ve only missed the playoffs one time, and it’s an addicting feeling. You want to keep pushing to that and when you get that cherry on top, which is the World Series, you strive for that every year.

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“Obviously there’s the postseason streak here that we haven’t been in, and I think the biggest thing that when we go into this season… you always want to play for something. Obviously everyone’s end goal is to go into the World Series and win it, right? But you have to hang on to something. When I was with the Cubs, everyone hung on to that 108 years, 108 years, that was something that we played for. And that’s something that we’ve got to hang on and play for. We’ve got to figure out what we want to do, what we want to hang on to, what we want to strive for every day, walking out that door, going onto the field, going out there and trying to win that baseball game any way possible.”

Schwarber, 29, is coming off the best season of his career. He split the 2021 campaign between the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox, combining for 32 home runs with 71 RBIs and hitting .266/.374/.554. Schwarber hit 25 homers in 303 plate appearances with the Nationals, then hit .291 with seven homers in 168 plate appearances after being traded to Boston.

Schwarber was the Phillies’ guy, and they believe he’s in the prime of his career. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said after the lockout ended and the transaction freeze was lifted, assistant GM Ned Rice was in touch with Schwarber’s representatives within “five minutes.”

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“We think the world of Kyle’s ability and his makeup,” Dombrowski said. “I look at last year as being more representative, [him] being a force in the middle of the lineup, wherever Joe [Girardi] decides to hit him. It really was consistent throughout the career, the type of person you win championships with, not only ability wise but makeup wise.

“I will say that our hitting coach Kevin Long had a lot to do with it. When we had our meetings down here actually and Kevin had just come on board, we came here and reviewed offseason priorities and setting our list together, and Kevin was saying, ‘This is the guy. This is the guy.’ We think he has a chance to grow.”

Long would know better than most. He worked closely with Schwarber in Washington last year, where he was a catalyst for unlocking the slugger’s power. Back then, he was reshaping Schwarber’s swing, but now, the two can start where they left off. In fact, they’ve already started. Schwarber arrived at Phillies camp on Sunday, and immediately worked with his hitting coach in the cages.

“It was our first cage session today, since the day he got traded,” Long said. “It’s been a long while, but it was just like riding a bike. He was like, man, I missed the sessions. I’m like yeah, me too! It was more of a love fest than it was anything else today. He knows we’ve got work to do and so do I. But it’s exciting. It’s exciting to already know a player and what he’s about, how he goes about his business. I know his swing, I know his thoughts. I know his drill routine. So there’s a lot of good out of this.”

Long said that Schwarber’s swing is exactly as he’d remembered it: He was staying back, he’s got limited movements, he’s working down and through the baseball, he’s balanced. But he still believes that there is more power to be unlocked, which is where they will set the bar for 2022.

» READ MORE: Phillies and Nick Castellanos agree to $100 million deal, as John Middleton clears the luxury-tax threshold

“I’m shooting higher,” Long said. “I kind of expected last year to happen and so did he. But there’s more. He’s definitely better. And we’re gonna try to draw that out. We understand there’s a process involved. And it takes a day at a time. The numbers just don’t appear on your baseball card. You’ve got to really, really kind of work at it.

“If you look at Kyle’s April, he had COVID, he had some tough things that happened to him. He got off to a rough start. But he didn’t panic. I wasn’t panicking. At the end of the day, you look up at what he did last year and it was phenomenal. The way I’m gonna look at it is, I would expect April to be much different than it was last year. And if April is much different, those numbers are going to be much different. I expect him to get off to a good start.

“He’s got to still get better against left-handed pitching. You know, that’s always gonna be something that we strive to do. We’ve got to make sure that he backs the ball up and stays behind the baseball. He can get excited and want to get out there and get pull happy at times. Just keep him short and compact and working behind the ball, using more of a line drive mentality. And those line drives turn into homers with him because he’s so strong. He really is.”

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Schwarber told Long last Tuesday that his goal is to win a World Series. The slugger had plenty of suitors but ended up going to Philadelphia for a simple reason.

“He handpicked Philly because it’s a place he thinks he can win,” Long said.

Schwarber was the Phillies’ first free-agent investment in a power hitter since the lockout ended. Outfielder Nick Castellanos agreed to a five-year, $100 million contract late Friday night. He is expected to be introduced by the Phillies on Wednesday.

“I was very excited,” Schwarber said of the Castellanos signing. “I was very happy. Being able to play with Nick in 2019, talk about a guy who can find some barrels and play the game with some passion. It’s only going to make you better. He wants to win.”