CLEARWATER, Fla. — A few hours before the Red Sox were set to play the Tigers in August, Kiké Hernandez wandered down to the batting cages under Comerica Park to see who was hitting. On this early afternoon it was Red Sox infielder Bobby Dalbec.

But Dalbec, 26, wasn’t alone. Behind him was a new face, a player who had been traded to Boston just five days earlier, and hadn’t even been activated yet. The player was Kyle Schwarber.

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Hernandez watched in silence as Schwarber, who agreed to a four-year deal with the Phillies last week, broke down Dalbec’s swing. Schwarber, 29, encouraged him to be more aggressive with his lower body, but more importantly, he stressed being on time. Keep it simple, see the ball, and react. Don’t make it more complicated than that.

Dalbec had been making it complicated. Entering August, he was batting .216 with 111 strikeouts, and in an effort to cure his hitting woes, he kept adding to his pregame routine. It wasn’t until he met Schwarber that he realized he had been trying to do too much. Schwarber kept it simple, in batting practice, in his at-bats, in every facet of his game, and at the time was one of the best power bats in baseball. Maybe, Dalbec thought, I should try to keep it simple, too.

“After a few days of working with him, the light bulb went off,” Dalbec said. “I realized that I’d rather have four things that are really going to get me ready than 10 things that may or may not get me ready.”

The impact was immediate. Dalbec hit .288/.369/.684 with a 1.053 OPS for the rest of the season. But what struck Hernandez most wasn’t Dalbec’s result — it was the time that Schwarber put in to help a struggling teammate, when he was rehabbing a hamstring injury and seemingly had no time at all.

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“Being on the IL, you’ve got so much going on that it’s easy to be focused on your own thing,” Hernandez said. “He figured out a way to get all his rehab done, learn how to play a new position at first base, learn about the new team, and help Bobby in the cage. That isn’t easy to do.”

‘I miss that guy so much’

People say Schwarber knows how to win, and they aren’t exaggerating. When he arrived at Indiana University as a freshman in 2012, the program had never been to a College World Series. The next year, the Hoosiers clinched a spot, in large part due to Schwarber, who hit .366 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs that season.

In his seven-year big-league career, Schwarber has been to the postseason six times, including a memorable World Series win with the Chicago Cubs in 2016. In 17 at-bats that series, the 23-year-old Schwarber hit .412/.500/.471.

But his former teammates will tell you it isn’t just his bat that makes him a consistent winner. It’s his energy, his ability to make the big moments seem small. Last year, Cubs manager David Ross was watching highlights from Game 3 of the ALDS. The Red Sox were playing the Rays, and the series was tied at a game apiece.

In the top of the third inning, a ground ball was hit to Schwarber, who was playing first base. Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi rushed over to first base to catch it, but Schwarber launched the ball a few feet over his head. He was charged with an error. On the next play, in the fourth inning, Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi hit a routine grounder to Schwarber. He seamlessly flipped it to Eovaldi, threw his hands up in the air, fist-pumped a few times, and tipped his cap to the crowd in celebration.

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Hernandez was shedding tears of laughter in center field. Dalbec, watching from the dugout, said it was one of the funnier things he’d ever seen. The sequence reminded Ross, who played with Schwarber in Chicago from 2015-16, of all the times Schwarber had muffed a catch in left field while Cubs starter Jon Lester was pitching. He’d almost always make the next play, and celebrate it in a similarly ridiculous fashion.

“I saw that highlight and I was like, ‘I miss that guy so much,’” Ross said. “His energy is just infectious. He’s still a kid out there, playing an adult game. He has this little leaguer mentality when he steps on the field. He can make fun of himself, which is just really endearing to his teammates.

“He will hit in the cage until they make him go home. He cares about his craft. But there’s some freedom in being able to turn that off, that failure of getting down on yourself. He has an understanding, just from a performance standpoint, that he’s going to make mistakes and embrace them.”

When Lester left the Cubs after the 2020 season, Schwarber made a video montage of himself, botching catches in the outfield, to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” complete with Lester’s anguished reactions. He played the montage on the left-field video board during a workout one day in late September.

The next season, Lester and Schwarber signed with the Washington Nationals.

“The very first out I got in Washington was a long fly ball to left field that Schwarber ran down and made a good play on,” Lester said. “It was pretty funny. I’m laughing, and he’s out there celebrating. No one understood what was going on.”

Making everybody better

Lester spent 16 seasons in the big leagues, and 20 seasons in pro baseball. He knows the grind of a season, but wasn’t always great at embracing it. He’d get preoccupied with his own preparation, his own game, and the little things would quickly fall by the wayside. But Schwarber was always on top of that. He’d say hello to the starting pitcher, the third-string catcher, the clubhouse attendant, and everyone in between.

“It sounds so simple and easy, but I’ve seen guys that are the greatest players in the game that aren’t good at it,” Lester said. “Baseball can bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. When you’re able to communicate with everybody, whether it’s just a hello or a pat on the back, it makes people realize that you care about them not as a baseball player but as a person.

“People will just assume that you’re a robot and you’re supposed to go out there and hit home runs and make pitches, so when your teammates take the time to say hello, over eight or nine months, it’s a huge thing. I was not very good at it, and I respect the hell out of guys that are good at it. They make everybody better.”

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Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo believes that it made him better. He played with Schwarber for six seasons with the Cubs. There were some days when he was slumping, and needed a “hello,” and Schwarber was quick to provide one.

“It’s so easy to go through the motions,” Rizzo said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re on an island by yourself. The more people you have there with you, trying to get you off that island, the easier it is. He’d come over and give me a pick-me-up when I needed one.”

Schwarber’s legacy of winning is built on these little moments of selflessness. It’s built on his ability to see what his teammates need, whether it be a hitting session in the cage, or a moment of self-deprecating humor on the field, and deliver it to them.

Now, he faces his biggest challenge yet: bringing a postseason appearance to Philadelphia, a city that hasn’t seen meaningful baseball in October in a decade. But Schwarber isn’t daunted. He’ll just start the way he always does — with a “hello.”