CHICAGO -- The ball is perched on top of the right-field video board at Wrigley Field, protected by a plexiglass box. It's a piece of Cubs history from last year's postseason, marking Kyle Schwarber's monster home run in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.
Thursday was the one-year anniversary of that blast, which helped spark a 6-4 Chicago victory and eliminated powerful St. Louis from the postseason.
The Cubs advances to the NL Championship Series again this year, against the Dodgers beginning on Saturday night ( 8 ET, 7 CT, FS1), but did so without Schwarber's bat, just his spirit. In the third game of the regular season, he tore the ACL and the LCL in his left knee after a freak collision with teammate Dexter Fowler at Chase Field.
Schwarber's rehab has gone well, and he's been spotted doing light agility drills in the outfield at Wrigley Field. But his role this year is cheerleader, not slugger. His first road trip with the team was to San Francisco for the NL Division Series, but he isn't allowed to go far without a brace on his left knee.
"It was only tough on me because I was so stressed out," Schwarber said Friday of the close games. "The easy part was watching and cheering the guys on. It's reality -- it is what it is. I'm embracing it and being able to yell as loud as I can to try to help them out. It was so much fun for me over there."
He hasn't spent all of his time with the Cubs' medical staff. Before games, Schwarber was watching video of the starting pitchers, and when the Cubs were on the road, he would chart the outings as well.
"I like to sit there and think, what's the possible options we can go with on this hitter?" he said Friday. "It's just a way to keep me in the game. For me to stay in the game, it's big for me. I can see how David [Ross] is thinking or [Willson Contreras] or [Miguel Montero] is thinking or what our pitchers are thinking. It's a good way for me to stay engaged."
Schwarber, 23, wasn't sure where the home run ball was. He'll be happy to know it's close to the action as the Cubs continue their postseason run. It's hard to believe that was one year ago.
"It was a cool moment for me personally, but overall, that whole last year, that whole last October was such an experience factor for us," he said. "Me, yeah, it was cool, but the only thing I remember was the crowd yelling their heads off. It was definitely cool for me, definitely cool for us younger guys. You get the experience of playing in those games and it's translating to this year."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.