By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Matt Szczur has a good chance to continue his professional baseball career.
The 2007 Lower Cape May Regional graduate has signed a minor-league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals that includes an invitation to spring training. Szczur, a righthanded-hitting outfielder, is set to report to the Cardinals’ spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla., this week.
He’ll have to beat long odds to make the Cardinals’ roster out of spring training as a non-roster invitee. But he should have an excellent chance to at least remain part of the organization at the minor league as a valuable depth player with lots of professional experience.
“Excited to start a new chapter with the Cardinals!” Szczur wrote on his Twitter page.
Szczur has more than 350 games worth of experience at the Major League level with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He most notably was a member of the 2016 World Series champion Cubs. He batted .259 with five home runs and 24 RBI while appearing in 107 games and establishing himself as one of the top pinch hitters in the National League that season. Szczur was left off the team’s playoff roster but was on the bench throughout the playoffs and received a World Series ring for his contributions.
Szczur had worked his way to the big club after being drafted by the Cubs in the fifth round out of Villanova in 2010 after he starred in both baseball and football for the Wildcats.
Szczur was traded to San Diego during the 2017 season and appeared in 159 games at the Major League level for the Padres over two seasons.
He later signed with Arizona for the 2019 season and was assigned to the team’s Triple A affiliate, where he batted .322 in 44 games before an injury sidelined him for the season.
Szczur signed with the Phillies before last season but was released prior to the regular season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Szczur has made headlines off the field for much of his charitable work during his college and professional playing days. While at Villanova, he donated bone marrow to help save a young girl from Ukraine who was fighting leukemia. He has also been heavily involved with the “Be The Match” bone-marrow screening efforts and other national, regional and local charitable efforts.
Szczur has also made a name for himself as an artist. He has painted many sports and non-sports items, often donating part or all of the proceeds to various charities, some here in this area.
Szczur was a standout baseball, football and track athlete at Lower Cape May. As senior, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in football and set a South Jersey record with a .681 batting average in baseball. He is Lower Cape May’s all-time hits leader with 130.
He went on to become the Most Valuable Player in the title game when Villanova won the national championship in football and was a first team all-Big East selection in baseball.
Szczur, 31, and his wife, Natalie, a Wildwood Catholic graduate, reside in Lower Township with their young son.