By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Matt Szczur has spent nearly all of his professional baseball career in the Midwest and West.
Now, the Lower Cape May Regional High School product is getting the chance to do it much closer to home.
According to a report published online by NBC Sports Philadelphia, Szczur has agreed to sign a minor-league contract with the Phillies that will include an invitation to major-league spring training camp that would give him a chance to make the big club as a reserve outfielder.
Szczur did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Szczur, 30, who spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, played at Triple A Reno in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization last season and hit .322 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and a .967 OPS. He was limited to 44 games due to injury, however.
Szczur (pronounced SEE-zer) was a fifth-round selection of the Cubs in 2010 and was a member of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship team, although he did not play in the postseason.
After graduating from Lower Cape May in 2007, Szczur went on to become a two-sport star in baseball and football at Villanova. He was the MVP of the 2009 NCAA FCS national championship game when the Wildcats beat Montana for the national title game. Szczur recorded nearly 300 all-purpose yards in that game. He was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year that season.
Szczur was also a Big East all-star in baseball.
Szczur brings a reputation as a good teammate and solid contributor to the community to the Phillies organization. He has been involved in numerous charitable endeavors in Chicago, San Diego and in the Cape May County area, much of it through his work in raising awareness and funding for the Be The Match bone marrow donation program. While at Villanova, Szczur donated bone marrow to help save the life of a young girl with leukemia from Ukraine. He also has enjoyed success as an artist, often donating the proceeds from his various baseball-related paintings to charity.
At Lower Cape May, Szczur batted .681 as a senior, a South Jersey record, and finished his high school baseball career with 130 career hits, a program record. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior as the quarterback of the football team.
Szczur was originally drafted in the 38th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers following his senior of year of high school but declined to turn pro at that time.
Szczur sports a career batting average of .231 in the major leagues. He last played in the majors in 2018 for San Diego. He is considered an above-average defender at all three outfield positions and has had success in the majors as both a pinch hitter and a pinch runner.