Friday, January 21, 2011

Villanova's Szczur picks baseball, reaches deal with Cubs

Two-sport standout Matt Szczur announced that he has reached an agreement with the Chicago Cubs under which he will commit fully to baseball and forego seeking possible professional football opportunities. Szczur will continue to play in the Cubs organization under a minor league contract.

For the past four years, Szczur has starred as both a baseball and a football student-athlete for Villanova. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft.

"I am very happy to have made my decision," Szczur said. "The Cubs are a great organization and I am happy to be with them. My situation couldn't be any better right now. I got to play two sports in college at a great
academic school. I expect to receive my degree soon and now I get the chance to become a major league baseball player."

Szczur, 21, combined to bat .347 (35-for-101) with 10 doubles, one triple, 10 RBI, 24 runs scored, a .414 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage in 25 professional games in the Cubs organization in
2010. He spent the majority of the season with short-season Single-A Boise, where he hit safely in all 18 games with a .397 batting average (29-for-73) to earn a six-game promotion to Single-A Peoria before
reporting to the Villanova football team in August.

"We've had the great fortune to get to know Matt the last seven-plus months and are excited by his decision to devote himself completely to baseball and the Cubs," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. "We've
come to know Matt not only as a talented athlete but also as an exceptional person. He had a fantastic pro debut with us last summer and we look forward to supporting and fostering his continued development as
a baseball player."

In just two seasons of baseball at Villanova, Szczur made a name for himself as one of the best hitters in program history. He ranks fifth all-time with a .392 (142-for-362) career batting average and is also
tied for third with nine triples. He averaged 1.6 hits per game over two seasons and his 142 hits include 23 doubles, nine triples and five home runs. Szczur had a .460 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging
percentage for the Wildcats.

"The entire Villanova community is excited for Matt and for him to have the chance to commit himself fully to his baseball career," Villanova head baseball coach Joe Godri said. "I knew that Matt was going to have
a chance to be a professional athlete and he had a difficult decision to make. I am thrilled that he will continue our program's legacy of players at the professional level. Villanova has had 55 players reach
the major leagues and I expect that Matt will have every chance at being No. 56."

In four years of football at Villanova, Szczur played in 47 games and helped the Wildcats go 37-10 (.787) in the games he appeared in. That record included reaching the quarterfinals of the Division I Football Championship in 2008, winning the national title in 2009 and advancing to the semifinals in 2010. His career football totals for Villanova include 1,803 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, 1,485 receiving yards and
11 scores, 1,690 kickoff return yards and two touchdowns, 206 passing yards (12-of-14) with five touchdowns and a total of 180 points. He racked up 5,234 career all-purpose yards and ends his career ranked 11th in school history in career rushing yards and 14th in career receiving yards. He was the MVP of the 2009 FCS national championship game, when the Wildcats won their first-ever national championship with a 23-21 win over previously unbeaten Montana.

Szczur will no longer participate in the Senior Bowl later this month and will report to Spring Training with the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. in late February or early March.

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