Villanova's Szczur drafted by Cubs

Matt Szczur must decide: baseball or football.
Matt Szczur must decide: baseball or football.
Posted: June 09, 2010

For Villanova junior Matt Szczur, it has been some kind of ride.

Last December, after being named both the Colonial Athletic Association's Offensive Player and Special Teams Player of the Year, he was the Most Outstanding Player in the FCS final as the Wildcats won their first football national title by beating No. 1 Montana.

Last month, he donated peripheral blood cells to a 1-year-old girl with leukemia. The odds of there being a match through the national registry are 1-in-80,000.

And yesterday, he was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round (pick No. 160 overall) of the Major League Baseball draft.

Which means he will have a decision to make.

The 5-11, 195-pound Szczur, who was selected in the 38th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers 3 years ago coming out of Lower Cape May Regional (N.J.) High, has been told he currently projects as a third-to-fifth round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

"I think I have better options now," said Szczur, who has been compared to Wes Welker.

Then again, Baseball America had him rated as the second-fastest runner among all collegiate position players eligible to be chosen. He also was listed as the 19th-best centerfielder among all players in the draft.

This season, he batted .443 (77-for-174), with an on-base percentage of .487 and a slugging percentage of .667. He led his team in eight offensive categories, and struck out only nine times in 191 plate appearances. He reached base safely in all but one of the 39 games he played (he missed 10 because of the marrow-harvesting procedure).

Against Montana, he rushed for a career-high 159 yards and finished with 270 all-purpose yards. The Wildcats should start next season ranked No. 1.

"One of my baseball coaches said, 'You know the damage you'll do to both programs by not coming back?' " Szczur said. "He was kind of chuckling. It's another thing to think about. It's pretty crazy. I just think I have to do what's best for me, as of right now, make sure I'm happy."

The interesting thing about this is, nobody knows just how good he could be in any one sport because he's never concentrated solely on either one before.

We're going to find out.

"I can't tell you how nervous I was," Szczur admitted. "I had no idea what was going to happen. I wasn't hearing from too many people. I talked to the Cubs this morning, so I kind of thought they were going to take me. But not really. After I got picked, it relieved a lot of stress.

"My brother said, 'Do you realize what just happened?' I'm just soaking it in. I mean, my dreams are becoming a reality. I've been doing a lot of thinking the past few months. We'll see what happens. I have to focus on one or the other. I'm excited to see what the future brings. To be honest, I really don't know yet. I talked to their general manager, Jim Hendry. The scouting director's going to call me with more details. I'll have a better idea after that . . .

"It's unbelievable. I'll talk it over with my family. I don't want to rush into anything. I have to see what's the best thing to do, financially, and what I want to do for my professional career. But it's there for me. It's a pretty good situation to be in."

Bencsko to Pirates

Villanova continued its good MLB draft as the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Wildcat centerfielder Justin Bencsko in the 20th round (597th overall).

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