It was just another June day for former Marist athlete Jon Schwind when his phone suddenly rang. It was a FaceTime call from Major League Baseball All-Star Josh Bell. Schwind answered the call. Bell wanted to make sure that Schwind’s wife, Lindsey, was in the room, as he had to tell him some news that needed to be kept a secret.
“Don’t screw it up!” Bell said.
“What are you talking about?” Schwind replied.
“Don’t screw it up, Jon!”
“Did you get invited?”
“Yeah and you’re throwing to me!”
It didn’t come as a surprise, the two had talked about this moment since they were a part of the minor leagues.
Heading into the 2019 season, Schwind and Bell had done a little offseason training to work on Bell’s swing. Schwind pitched to Bell, similar to what he does for his job as the assistant hitting coach for the Indianapolis Indians.
One day, Bell began to talk to Schwind about the possibility of him participating in the Home Run Derby, one of the biggest events of the year in baseball. If he wanted to do so though he needed a thrower. “I’ll throw for you if you want,” Schwind mimicked. This offseason fantasy soon became a reality for the two, as Bell’s 27 home runs ranked fifth in the majors at the time of the All-Star break.
As Schwind stepped on the mound at Progressive Field, he couldn’t help but notice the expressions of Bell. “It sounds crazy but I remember him grunting at the Home Run Derby. It just shows how the guy tried so hard and he cares so much about his craft. He’s just a competitive man and it just showed that he was out of gas. I remember thinking to myself Lord I wish I could just give all my energy to him right now,” Schwind said.
When you search “Jon Schwind” on Google or Youtube, most articles and interviews will simply inform you that we was the pitcher for Josh Bell in the Home Run Derby. However, none of them will tell you the story about where he was before that moment or what he is up to now.
As a freshman at Marist College, Schwind helped the Red Foxes win the 2009 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship. He was an everyday utility player whether in the infield playing second base, shortstop and third base or patrolling the outfield in center field and right field. The following season Schwind had a breakout year, as he led the team in at-bats (217), hits (75), doubles (20) and total bases (109). He also was third on the team in batting average (.346) and RBIs (42). Marist finished second in the conference that season behind Canisius.
Following Schwind’s sophomore season, he began to get some looks from some different teams. “There was some projections that I was going to be a top 10 rounder.”
However, as his junior year came and finished, things did not go as expected. “My junior year went and I didn’t really have a good year. I had a very average year. Initially, my thought was that chance [of getting drafted] went by and we’ll see what happens,” Schwind stated.
Schwind then went to Newport, R.I., to play summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. “I wanted to try and build up going into season year and help us win a championship at Marist,” he said.
Teams were still in contact with Schwind at the time. “I had a couple workouts before I went to Newport and had a couple teams contact me. One team in particular was the Pirates.” They had contacted him and asked if he would be interested in playing catcher. “I didn’t know how to catch. I played everywhere else but I hadn’t caught.”
“After that phone call it was basically done and I went up to Newport and I got drafted when I was there.”
On June 8, 2011 the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Schwind with the first pick in the 41st round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Life was a whirlwind for Schwind when choosing to sign his rookie contract. After weighing his options with Lindsay, as well as his family and coaches, he decided to forgo his senior season and join the Pirates organization. “I just thought it was a good opportunity and maybe an opportunity that I wasn’t going to get next year. You just don’t know, especially from a small school you don’t know if that chance is going to come up again.”
Schwind made a statement in his first professional season as he led the Gulf Coast League Pirates with a .347 batting average in rookie league. This early success proved to him that he made the right decision.
The following season, Schwind was playing in Single-A for the West Virginia Power when he broke his arm. During that time, Bell had recently torn his meniscus. As a result, the two were sent down to Bradenton, Fla. to rehab together. During this time they each began to build a bond, as they would hang out with each other almost everyday. The two got so close that Bell was even apart of Schwind’s wedding.
During his seven year professional career, Schwind played at every level of the minor leagues from rookie ball to Triple-A. He was a true utility man as he played every position with the exception of shortstop. Ultimately, Schwind’s career got cut short due to injuries. He experienced it all from broken bones to a ruptured spleen after collision in the outfield to an internal oblique injury that happened in his final season of professional baseball. When Schwind returned to the field in late July 2017, he joined an Altoona Curve squad that would go on to win the Eastern League Championship in AA.
Schwind is a big believer in giving back, as he has been named the Pirates Community Commitment Award Winner on four separate occasions.
During the end of Schwind’s playing days he knew that the Pirates wanted him to join their coaching staff. He currently stands as the assistant hitting coach and third base coach for his former team, the Indianapolis Indians. “I want to impact people,” he uttered.
When Chris Tracz got the job as head coach of the Marist baseball team he thought of Schwind as a leader and essentially a player-coach. “He was easily somebody we relied on as coaches to talk to about what’s going on with the players and different things. The players gravitated towards him as one of the people that will help them get through certain things,” Tracz stated.
Schwind was always very involved with other people. “He was great with our younger guys [at Marist] with working with them,” Tracz continued. “He always had time for people that was just his thing. He’s big with relationships that’s big in the coaching and teaching world.”
Baseball is more than just a game for Schwind, it’s a brotherhood. “The easiest thing to point to is every holiday since he was a player whether it’s Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas you always get a text from him. We can go six months and even a year without talking to him and it always shows up.” said Tracz.
Schwind doesn’t just do this with Tracz but also every teammate that he has ever had, even if he and that person don’t get along. Tracz thinks that Schwind has every bit of potential to succeed as a coach. “He has that special ability to stay connected with people,” Tracz said. He couldn’t help but have a huge smile on his face while talking about Schwind.
As Schwind looks back on his career and the path that led him to where he is now as a coach for the Indianapolis Indians he wouldn’t change anything. “Do I think if I went back to Marist I would have been drafted higher? Yeah there’s thoughts like that, but I definitely don’t have any regrets.”
Edited by David Bieber