Jon Schwind, Josh Bell’s Home Run Derby pitcher, hopes to find sweet spot
Jon Schwind is hoping to be the perfect pitcher for Josh Bell, which is to say he hopes to repeatedly find the sweet spot on Bell’s bat Monday in the Home Run Derby.
As a former roommate and teammate of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ All-Star first baseman who has 27 home runs this season, Schwind has a good idea of where to throw it.
Somewhere over the middle.
“He likes the ball a little up, kind of middle height, closer to middle, middle-in,” Schwind said Sunday at PNC Park. “He’s such a long guy that it just comes down to me repeating where the ball goes, and he’ll figure out what he has to do with it.”
Bell and Schwind became fast friends while rehabilitating injuries together at Pirate City in 2012. They later roomed and played together at Class A advanced Bradenton in 2014 and Double-A Altoona, so participating in the Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game long has been a topic of conversation.
“It’s an exciting time for him, and I try to keep the focus more on him because it’s something that he’s worked really hard for,” said Schwind, the assistant hitting coach at Triple-A Indianapolis. “Obviously, it’s been a dream of his for a long time. We talked about it in the minor leagues. I’m just trying to impact him in whatever way I can to make it easier for him.”
The duo planned to practice Sunday before the Pirates played the Milwaukee Brewers to give Schwind an idea of where Bell wants his pitches and the duo a chance to find a rhythm.
“The timing is going to be a little different and it’s going to be hard to replicate that, with waiting until the ball lands,” Schwind said. “So that’ll be something we’ll probably figure out when we get to Cleveland. It’s just to make a little bit easier for him, to get him comfortable, whether it’s me going too fast or if I see his pace is a little off or see something in his body language and control that.”
With a $1 million prize to the winner, that puts as much pressure on Schwind to deliver the perfect pitch as it does on Bell to knock it out of Progressive Field in Cleveland. So Schwind spent time last week practicing pitching to a catcher’s target.
“Honestly, I haven’t felt nervous,” Schwind said, standing next to Bell’s locker. “You can’t replicate the stage. I’m sure when we get there, our heart rates are going to go up a little bit.
“It’s going to be an interesting and fun experience. I’m trying to keep the focus on helping him in whatever way I can. If I continue to do that, I feel it’s going to be a lot easier. Hopefully, we’ll get into a rhythm and end up on top.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .