Indiana ties abound in this World Series

AP photoCleveland manager Terry Francona, who began his managerial career with South Bend, speaks to reporters prior to a 2016 playoff workout.

The state of Indiana is sandwiched pretty thick into the middle of this World Series, even literally so by virtue of its locale between Illinois and Ohio, but also in other ways.

Fittingly, the Series was slated to open Tuesday night with the Chicago Cubs' Dexter Fowler stepping into the box against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.

Fowler spent a one-game rehab appearance with the South Bend Cubs in July, while Kluber made 10 minor league appearances for Fort Wayne in 2008 when he was part of the San Diego Padre organization.

Ties among the World Series combatants to Indiana stretch beyond the incidental, though.

Perhaps the mot talked-about game-day development heading into Game 1 was Chicago activating Kyle Schwarber and inserting him fifth in the lineup after he missed nearly the entire regular season and the Cubs' first two rounds of the playoffs due to injury.

Schwarber is a former Indiana University All-American. He's also the first IU player in the World Series in 23 years, the last being second baseman Mickey Morandini for Philadelphia in 1993. Morandini later became a Cub.

On the Indians' side, there's highly regarded manager Terry Francona, who started his managerial career with South Bend in 1992. That's when South Bend's Midwest League franchise was affiliated with the White Sox rather than with the Cubs.

Francona would go on to manage Michael Jordan during the latter's try at baseball with the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 1994, then win two World Series with Boston.

Player-wise, at least 23 individuals on these World Series rosters have spent time in the Midwest League, nearly all of them playing at some point against, if not for, South Bend.

Among those who played for South Bend is Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, who did so in 2004 when the franchise was an Arizona Diamondback affiliate.

Some of the other key Cubs who have appeared within the Midwest League include Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and closer Aroldis Chapman (albeit just a two-game rehab cameo in 2014 for Cincinnati-affiliated Dayton).

On Cleveland's side, reliever Bryan Shaw played for South Bend in 2008.

Just a few of the more prominent Indians among at least 15 players from Cleveland with Midwest League experience are blossoming star Franciso Lindor, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Coco Crisp and Josh Tomlin.

Further south, Cubs catcher David Ross played for the Indianapolis Indians, Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate, in 2005, while Cleveland's Rajai Davis did so during parts of 2006 and 2007.

So dig in, Indiana, this is your World Series, too, not just in terms of coming right between the combatants geographically, but in terms of some familiar faces.

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