His last name means "rat" in Polish. He's anything but.
Matthew Francis Szczur was born on July 20, 1989 in Cape May Court House, an unincorporated community in central New Jersey. He was raised in Erma, another unincorporated community, slightly further south. He attended Lower Cape May Regional High School, lettering in football, baseball, and track and field. He still lives in the area.
He was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 38th round of the 2007 draft, but chose instead to attend Villanova University, where he excelled in football, earning an MVP nod as a varsity player when Villanova won their first national championship in 2009. Szczur played wide receiver, running back, wildcat quarterback and was a return specialist, was a consensus All-American and 2009 Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the year. He also played center field for the school's baseball program.
Szczur is the younger of two sons. His parents are Marc and Kathleen. His brother's name is Marc (he was an amateur pitcher). Here's his profile from Villanova. He has been working his way through the Cubs' system since being drafted in 2010 (No.160 overall in the fifth round), starting first at Boise, moving to Peoria for a few games and playing one in the Arizona Rookie League. He played for the Daytona Cubs (High-A) in 2011, and was promoted to the AA Tennessee Smokies a week after his birthday in 2012.
He was initially signed to a contract that gave him a $100,000 bonus and an additional $500,000 if he declined to attend the NFL combine and made a written commitment to baseball before February 10, 2011. After the 2010 season, Szczur committed to baseball, signing a $1.5 million deal. At that point, he was placed on the 40-man roster because not doing so would have exposed him to the Rule 5 draft in 2011.
Szczur was first called up to the Major Leagues on August 16, 2014, debuting the following day. That stay didn't last long. He was sent to the Iowa Cubs, where he played until summoned to the parent club again June 2, 2015. He was up and down a few times, and has opened 2016 on the major-league roster.
Through Monday, Szczur has a career batting average of .239, with four home runs and 17 runs batted in. His OBP is .292, his SLG .380, and his OPS .672, all according to his baseball-reference page. With the recent injury to Kyle Schwarber, he might be in line for more playing time. He is off to a good start in limited duty so far this year.
He has been a Mid-Season All-Star as a Peoria Chief, Daytona Cub, and a Tennessee Smokie, and has also been selected for the Futures game in 2011 and was named an MiLB Organization All-Star in 2012 and a post-season All-Star in 2013.
In 86 games in the major leagues, his good speed and contact bat have yet to make much of an impact. He did hit a bases-clearing double Opening Day, 2016. Last June, he took Clayton Kershaw deep, and he had a game-winning walk-off single.
In 2009, Szczur donated bone marrow to a 15-month-old Ukrainian girl named Anastasia battling leukemia. Szczur essentially saved the girls life given how hard it would have been to find another person that was a match for bone marrow and the severity of her condition. He met the healthy four-year old girl and her parents via Skype using a translator that was present at Anastasia's house. It was documented in E:60 Risking it All, which is one of ESPN's E:60 presentations.
Szczur granted an interview with The Press of Atlantic City September 10, 2015, in which he reflected on the events of 2015. He was the subject of an interesting article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last August. His mother was interviewed by the Cape May County Herald last year.
He is still active in the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation, having hosted a fundraising dinner for the cause over the winter. He is active on social media. His Twitter handle is @superszcz4. He maintains an Instagram account, runs baseball camps near home, and proposed to his wife Natalie onstage on Broadway. January 9, 2016, was Matt Szczur Day in Lower Township, New Jersey. His football coach at Villanova, Andy Talley, described Szczur as "a small town guy with small town values." It's hard not to root for him.
Here he is talking about his first Major-League home run: