ALTOONA, Pa. — When Josh Bell steps to the batter's box at Progressive Field for the Home Run Derby, it won't be one of his coaches from the Pirates or even high school who will be throwing to him, but rather a good friend and current Indianapolis coach Jon Schwind.
The friendship between Bell and Schwind dates back to their time as teammates and roommates as they progressed through the Pirates' farm system. Since then, they've become like family to each other and it has led to their moment together Monday night.
"We're just really good friends," Schwind said. "We've been friends throughout our career and really it's turned into more than a teammate friendship. It's somebody that I treat as family and I think he'd probably say the same."
It truly will be a family affair for Bell and Schwind on Monday with their families in attendance to watch the HR Derby.
"I really think it's just he's such a caring and loving person he wants to share the experience with people who are close to him," Schwind said. "His family is going to get to be there and at the same time I think he wanted to share it with me and give my family the same sort of emotion he's going to be feeling. It's just a testament to how caring and loving he is. I just can't wait to see him and give him a big hug and tell him how proud I am of him."
Schwind, who daylights as the assistant hitting coach for the Indians, has seen the hard work and dedication Bell has put in through the offseason and the growth overall for a player who's been in the big leagues for four seasons.
"It's been really exciting. You know, it's more I'm just extremely excited for him," Schwind said. "I know it's something he's really, really worked hard for. It's something he's devoted a lot of time to perfecting his craft and being the absolute best he can be for his team to impact them."
The two men spend a lot of time together each offseason visiting one another's homes to work out and relax and it was this past offseason when Schwind saw it click for Bell, leading to his monstrous first half with the Pirates.
"He came to hit with me at the end of last year when the season ended. It kinda started in September," Schwind said. "He started focusing on some things that were a little more appropriate and simple, really, to get him in the right mindset and he's really, really emphasized those and perfected those."
It's no surprise to Schwind that his workout partner is putting up record-setting numbers, but he believes the maturation process has had a lot to do with the honed in focus we're seeing with Bell this year at the plate.
"It's just amazing how much awareness he has of his body now and his timing and you're seeing a huge growth in him as a hitter," Schwind said. "He was a special talent even before this year. It's just he's just really matured as he's been in the big leagues a little longer and he works his tail off. Anytime you get a guy who's talented and is the hardest worker, it's not a surprise when you see him put up numbers like this and see him impact the team the way he's been doing."
The bright lights will be on and Schwind will be performing with Bell in front of an international audience come Monday night, but is the Indianapolis third base coach nervous?
"I really am not. Whether that's wrong or right, I don't know," Schwind said. "I'm very well aware that when we get out there, I'm sure we're going to have some butterflies and some adrenaline and the heart rate is going to go up a little bit.
"I think that just means and shows it's important and something we care about, so it's not really about having nerves. That's OK. Right now the focus is just to help him and make it easier for him. Hopefully, we're able to collaborate together and he's able to hit the way he's capable of and at the end of the night we will be on top."
After the pomp and circumstance of Monday night, it will be back to normalcy for Schwind. He will rejoin the Indians following the All-Star break to resume his regular duties as a coach. Until then, the focus will be on helping Bell and enjoying the experience.
"It's just a really exciting time for him and his family and I'm just so honored and humbled that he's willing to share the experience with me," Schwind said.
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