NEW YORK - Former Villanova baseball and football star Matt Szczur has been promoted to the major leagues by the Chicago Cubs and will join the team in New York on Sunday prior to the team's game against the New York Mets. Szczur will become the 56th former Villanova baseball player to reach the major leagues.
This is the first call up to the major leagues for Szczur and it comes on the heels of an extended hot streak at Triple-A Iowa, where he was batting .261 with 52 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 16 doubles in 116 games. In 31 games since the Triple-A All-Star break Szczur had hit at a .315 clip with 16 stolen bases in 18 tries. His recent success included a .275 batting average in July and a .292 average this month.
Szczur is in his fourth full season and fifth overall playing in the professional ranks. He made a steady rise through the minor leagues after the Cubs drafted him in the fifth round of the 2010 First Year Player Draft. Szczur made his professional debut by hitting .347 over 25 games at three minor league stops in 2010, after which he returned to Villanova to complete his degree and play his senior season of football that fall.
Villanova has been a stepping stone for players to reach the major leagues since the very beginnings of collegiate baseball. Szczur is the Wildcats 56th major leaguer in a period of time that dates back to the late 19th century. Prior to Szczur the last Villanova major leaguer was current Wildcats pitching coach Kevin Mulvey, who was the New York Mets top draft pick in 2006 and made MLB appearances with the Minnesota Twins (2009) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (2009, 2010).
One month after completing his career as a two-sport collegiate standout, Szczur reached agreement with the Cubs in January, 2011 to commit fully to baseball and forego seeking professional football opportunities. He split the 2011 season between Class A Peoria of the Midwest League and Class A-Advanced Daytona of the Florida State League, hitting a combined .293 in 109 games. In 2012, Szczur began the season back in Daytona and earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A Tennessee in the Southern League. He spent the entire 2013 season in Tennessee and began this season with Triple-A Iowa. Szczur has hit .280 with a .345 on-base percentage and 120 stolen bases overall in 491 minor league games.
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.
During his time at Villanova, Szczur also made headlines by donating peripheral blood cells and saving the life of a then-19 month old leukemia patient through the National Marrow Donor Program. The story was profiled by E:60 on September 4, 2013 in its season premiere episode on ESPN2.
Szczur batted .443 with a .667 slugging percentage for the Wildcats in the 39 games he played in during the 2010 season. He finished the year with 40 runs scored, 38 runs batted in and 77 hits, including 13 doubles, seven triples and four home runs. He also struck out just nine times in 191 plate appearances.
In four years of football at Villanova, Szczur played in 47 games and helped the Wildcats go 37-10 (.787) in the game 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 ended his collegiate career ranked 11th in school history in career rushing yards and 14th in career receiving yards. Szczur was the MVP of the 2009 FCS national championship game, when he rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-21 victory over Montana.
Szczur is one of six former Villanova baseball players who is currently active in the professional ranks. Right-handed pitcher Kyle McMyne is in his fourth season in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system and left-hander Kyle Helisek is in his third year as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Right-handed pitcher Pat Young is in his second year pitching in the San Francisco Giants system and 2014 draft pick JB Kole recently debuted in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system. In addition, infielder Tyler Sciacca is playing for the Schaumburg Boomers in the independent Frontier League.
Since the inception of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft in 1965, Villanova players have been drafted 66 times. There have been 23 draft picks from Villanova since 2002 alone, including at least one pitcher being selected in 12 of the last 13 years.