By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Matt Szczur will have a chance to play his way onto a Major League Baseball roster next year.
Szczur, a Lower Cape May Regional graduate, has signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks with an invitation to Major League spring training. He has been assigned to the Triple A Reno Aces but it appears he will be given a chance to earn a spot on the Diamondbacks’ roster in spring training.
The signing was announced through the Reno Aces Twitter account.
Szczur played last season in the San Diego Padres’ organization. He began the season in the majors but was designated for assignment in early July after hitting .187 with 14 hits in 75 at bats. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple A El Paso. He batted .316 with six RBI for the Chihuahuas, but played in only 10 games and missed the final month of the season due to injury.
Szczur elected for free agency after the end of last season.
Szczur, 29, arrived in San Diego early in the 2017 season after being designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs. He had played parts of four seasons in Chicago and enjoyed his most major league success during the Cubs’ World Series championship season in 2016 when he hit .259 with five home runs and 24 RBI in a reserve role. He was considered one of the top pinch-hitters in the National League that season.
Szczur was selected in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cubs in 2010. He made his major league debut in August 2014.
Szczur, a 2007 graduate of Lower Cape May, was a baseball and football standout as a high school athlete. He batted a South Jersey record .681 as a senior in baseball and rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior in football.
Szczur went on to play both sports at Villanova University and helped the Wildcats win the FCS national championship in football as a junior, He totaled 270 all-purpose yards and was named MVP of the title game and was eventually named the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year that season. In baseball, Szczur batted .392 with 62 RBI and 28 stolen bases over two seasons at Villanova.
While at Villanova, Szczur also made national headlines when he donated bone marrow to help save the life of a young girl from Ukraine afflicted with leukemia.
During his professional baseball career, Szczur has also become well known for his many charitable endeavors in the Chicago, San Diego and Cape May County areas. He often auctions and sells his own art pieces for charity.