Cubs prospect Szczur: Baseball 'just seems right'

Cubs prospect Szczur: Baseball 'just seems right'

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011
2:15 p.m.

By Jim Salisbury

Matt Szczur would love to see the Chicago Cubs end their century-old drought and win the World Series in 2011.

Hes rooting for them in a big way.

But if they want to wait a few years until he makes it to Wrigley Field well, he wont complain.

That would be great, a dream come true, to be in centerfield and win a World Championship, Szczur said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

To Philadelphia-area sports fans, Szczur is the Villanova University kid who led the Wildcats football team to a national championship in 2009. Hes also the young man who took time off from his junior year baseball season at Villanova to help save a young girls life with a bone marrow transplant.

To Cubs officials, Szczur is all this and then some. They selected him in the fifth round of the major league draft last June and were so impressed with his play and potential in the minor leagues last summer that they have agreed to pay him 1.5 million for the coming season. The Cubs believe Szczur is worth the investment. All they asked was that Szczur give up his aspirations of playing in the NFL so he can focus completely on baseball.

The Cubs have gotten to know Matt as a baseball player and a person and they wanted to do everything they could to ensure he remained a Cub, said Rex Gary, Szczurs Philadelphia-based agent.

Szczur, a receiver and return specialist who was MVP of the 2009 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision game, was a candidate to be selected as high as the fourth round in the NFL draft. He had been in Florida preparing to showcase his talents in the Senior Bowl when he accepted an offer to have dinner with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on Sunday night.

Hendry made his pitch.

Good-bye, Senior Bowl. Hello, Cubs.

Jim and I had a very nice dinner, Szczur said. There was no pressure at all. I just looked at the figure they offered and it was tough to pass up. I love both sports. Going this way just seems right.

Im definitely going to miss football, but the way I look at it is I was going to have to give up one either way. I would have missed which ever one I would have given up equally. I dont really have a first love I love both. It was a hard decision, but I think its the right one for me.

Szczur pronounced Caesar is a 21-year-old product of Erma, N.J., and Lower Cape May Regional High School. He is 12 credits shy of a Liberal Arts degree at Villanova.

On the football field at Villanova, Szczur won All-America honors. On the baseball field, he was an All-Big East outfielder, finishing with a career batting average of .392 in two seasons.

Szczur had an impressive pro debut with the Cubs last summer, hitting .347 with a .414 on-base percentage in 25 games at the rookie and Single A levels. He began his pro career with a 21-game hitting streak. His season ended with a trip to Wrigley Field, where he took batting practice with the big team before a game.

That was unbelievable because I was in one of the last groups and the stands were full, Szczur said. It was crazy, a great feeling.

I just loved the pro ball experience. It was so much fun being able to focus on baseball fulltime.

Szczur, 5-11 and 200 pounds, has excellent speed and strength to go with an impressive bat. Scouts believe hes only begun to scratch the surface of his baseball potential and will benefit by concentrating fulltime on the sport.

During his time at Villanova, Szczur also shined off the field. He missed 10 baseball games last season while undergoing a procedure to donate bone marrow to a young girl with leukemia. Szczur doesnt know the girls identity. Maybe someday shell watch him play in Wrigley Field.

I missed a few games and spent a couple of days in a hospital bed, but I got to help save a life, Szczur said. It was a great experience.

So, too, was his first season of professional baseball.

So much so that hes ready for more, even if it means giving up football.

This is the first time Ill be giving baseball 100 percent concentration, Szczur said. Im excited to see what it brings to me.
Jim Salisbury is's Phillies Insider.

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series

Kyle Schwarber has not been cleared by doctors to play the field and will not start for the Cubs in Games 3-5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday.

Schwarber was seen with a glove in left field during the batting practice portion of the Cubs' workout Thursday at Wrigley Field, but Epstein said Cubs' doctors and Dr. Daniel Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys surgon who performed the surgery on Schwarber's torn ACL and LCL in April, were "Convinced there’s too much risk in playing the outfield.” The risk of having Schwarber move quickly and start, stop and cut suddenly in the outfield was too great and Epstein said the Cubs didn't want to "throw caution to the wind" to get Schwarber in the lineup over the weekend.

"It's not disappointing at all," Schwarber said. "It was a long shot at the most." 

Added Schwarber: "There's no being sad about it, there's no nothing. I know my role now and I'm going to embrace it." 

Schwarber doubled and walked in Game 1 of the World Series and collected a pair of RBI singles and walked in Game 2 in Cleveland. He started and hit fifth as a designated hitter in both games and will be available as a high-leverage pinch hitter Games 3-5. 

Jimmy Kimmel locates crying Cubs fan, gives him World Series tickets

Jimmy Kimmel locates crying Cubs fan, gives him World Series tickets

Just like many Cubs fans, Ryan Slagle has been on cloud nine the last few weeks.

The diehard Cubs fan and Iraq War veteran became an overnight internet sensation after cameras caught him crying at a bar in Wrigleyville when the Cubs punched their ticket to the World Series last weekend.

After footage went viral, the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" show tracked down Slagle for an interview.

"The last 48 hours of my life has been absolutely ridiculous," Slagle told 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' correspondent Guillermo Rodriguez on Wednesday night. "My life has been flipped up outside down. My man card has been pulled away. I don't know what to do with myself these days."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Before finishing the interview, Kimmel broke the news that he's going to send Slagle and his girlfriend to a World Series game at Wrigley Field this weekend.

Fighting through the emotions, Slagle thanked Kimmel and told him how much he appreciates it.

"That's a man right there, I don't care what anybody says," Kimmel said.

Check out the full video below: