No Rest For Cubs' Matt Szczur
Matt Szczur is one of those guys who can do just about anything. The one thing he doesn't do is let his body rest, and he's feeling the strain four full months into his first full season as a baseball player.
"This is definitely the longest I've ever played, and I'm doing it on top of a football season," Szczur said. "It gets to be a grind, but I'm still going out there every day and playing baseball. It's fun. I've been eating it up."
Szczur, a fifth-round pick in 2010, played 25 games last summer before returning to Villanova for his senior year on the football team. He had a highly productive season, but opted for a career with the Cubs rather than entering the NFL draft.
In addition to the Cubs paying him $1.5 million, he was influenced by a high ankle sprain he suffered playing football last fall. "It was against Penn, the first play of the game," Szczur said. "I was the quarterback in the wildcat formation. I made a bad read, went the other way and got drilled. My ankle just rolled up."
Szczur (pronounced Caesar) realized how quickly football can be taken away from you. He foresees a long career as a center fielder, and has put his skills on display by batting .303/.351/.436 with seven home runs and 21 stolen bases in 346 at-bats between low Class A Peoria and high Class A Daytona this season.
"You watch him hit . . . his swing is so short, direct to the ball," farm director Oneri Fleita said. "A lot of time, guys who have been hitting with aluminum bats have a loop to the ball. His hands are in, right at the ball."
Szczur is a candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League, but admits he's looking forward to having time off to regroup after playing baseball and football non-stop for most of his life.
"I'll be honest, first I'm going to take a little time off," he said. "This will be the first time since high school that I've gotten time off."
• Tony Campana remained in the big leagues after Marlon Byrd came off the disabled list. He was being used largely as a pinch-runner, stealing 12 bases in 13 tries while hitting .256 in his first 86 at-bats.
• The Cubs added an outfield prospect when they traded Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians. Chicago recieved 21-year-old Abner Abreu (along with 25-year-old Triple-A set-up man Carlton Smith), whose development has been stunted by his free-swinging nature. But he hit .352 with eight homers in July for high Class A Kinston.