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Szczur ecstatic about choice of baseball

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Matt Szczur long dreaded his decision to pursue either a professional baseball or football career.

Now that Villanova's two-sport standout has picked baseball, he couldn't be happier - or more relieved.

"No regrets at all," Szczur said at a news conference on campus Thursday afternoon. It came on the heels of his decision this week to foresake the shot at an NFL career to continue his baseball career within the Chicago Cubs organization.

"My situation couldn't be any better right now. I was able to play two sports in college from a great academic school, hopefully be able to get my degree pretty soon. And now I'm going to be a Major League Baseball player."

Szczur, who last summer spent six weeks as an outfielder as a Cubs minor leaguer before the organization allowed him to return to Villanova for his senior football season, accepted a reported $1.5 million contract to become a full-time baseball player.

A wide receiver and kickoff returner, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Szczur was considered to be a mid-round draft possibility in the Wes Welker mold. He was in Florida to prepare to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala., when Cubs general manager Jim Hendry visited with him and increased what had started as a $100,000 signing bonus last July.

"I had a feeling that the Cubs were going to come and meet up with me before the Senior Bowl and maybe give another offer, as they did," Szczur said. "It ended up working out for me. I'm very happy about my decision, the Chicago Cubs are a great organization and I'm happy to be with them.

"It was perfect because I got the opportunity to play my senior season (in football), I got the opportunity to get an invite to the (NFL) Combine as well as the Senior Bowl. I was able to be here for another semester with my friends, who are more or less my family. (The Cubs) upped the offer and I'll be in spring training was late February."

Szczur opened his pro career with a 21-game hitting streak and batted .347 in 25 games on three levels in the Cubs' system. He said he figures to start the 2011 season at Single-A Peoria, where he concluded his stint last summer.

Szczur was the most valuable player in the 2009 FCS championship game when Villanova won its first national title, but he missed much of his senior season with a high ankle sprain. He excelled in playoff wins over Stephen F. Austin and Appalachian State before suffering a concussion in the semifinals when the Wildcats were eliminated by eventual national champion Eastern Washington.

With good performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Szczur said he expected to be a third- or fourth-round draft choice in April.

"In football, I'm taking the chance of injury. In baseball, I'm just taking the chance of making it," he said. "Either way I go I would have been able to make money and I'd have been able to make it regardless. In the long run, my senior season helped out a little bit. I was down for six games and that last game (FCS semifinal against Eastern Washington), I had a concussion. It got me thinking a little bit. I'm going to be playing baseball now."

01/20 14:54:20 ET