Matt Szczur has never questioned whether he wanted to play baseball. Even though he's a two-sport athlete at Villanova University, baseball is his top sport.
But in the days leading up to the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, he never had so many people question his commitment to baseball.
The Villanova junior is a two-sport star. He was the MVP in the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game last fall when the Wildcats won their first title.
He's also the first Villanova baseball player since 1997 to hit over .400 in a season this spring.
His athleticism and seemingly natural gift for sports has made him a well-regarded baseball prospect, but MLB scouts mostly have just one question.
"They all want to know if I want to play baseball or football," said Szczur, 20, who lives in the Erma section of Lower Township. "They want to make sure I am not going to leave and play football."
Szczur, a Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate and former Press Player of the Year, always has said his plans for next season are undetermined. He loves football and being with his teammates, but the right situation would send him toward a professional baseball career.
He has an idea of what it would take to leave school and play baseball, but he isn't making it public.
However, some think Szczur's prospects aren't going to get better than they are now.
Szczur likely will be drafted early today. The draft begins at noon with rounds 2-30. Rounds 31-50 begin Wednesday at noon. All rounds will be streamed on MLB.com. The first round was Monday.
"I think he can be a top-five-round draft pick," said Aaron Fitt, Baseball America's college reporter. "I think his baseball draft stock is at its peak right now. He still has leverage from a negotiation standpoint, but most guys who get drafted in the first five rounds sign a professional contract."
In Baseball America's draft preview last week, Szczur was rated as the second-fastest runner among all college position players in the draft. He also was considered the 19th-best center fielder of all draft-eligible players.
Even though Szczur missed part of the year because he donated bone marrow, he still put up impressive numbers in his second collegiate season. Szczur red-shirted his freshman year with a sports hernia.
This spring he led Villanova in eight offensive categories, including a .487 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage. His .443 batting average is the fourth highest in school history.
"The thing that jumps out at you is his athleticism," Fitt said. "He's a freak athlete. He's just lightning fast. He's still learning how to play the outfield, so he is a little raw in that respect, but the more he concentrates on baseball the better he is going to get. The only reason he is not a first-round pick is because he's got rough edges to polish up."
Szczur always has wanted to play baseball. He was drafted in the 38th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school but decided to go to college.
He decided to go to Villanova on a football scholarship because it was the only school that also allowed him to play baseball.
Szczur has always wanted to play baseball. That's what he keeps telling everyone.
"It's frustrating when I get asked if I want to play baseball," Szczur said. "I've had one guy call me about five or six times just to ask me if I want to play baseball. People are still a little nervous about it."
Szczur had several workouts with teams recently, including the New York Yankees at their minor-league complex in Staten Island, N.Y.
However, he is still going through his everyday actions as though nothing will change after this week. He's taking two summer classes at Villanova and still working out with the football team.
He is nervous, though.
He will wait with his family and friends to see where he will be drafted, which will likely happen today.
"I'm excited," Szczur said. "I talked to my high school football coach Lance Bailey and I told him I was nervous. He told me everything is going to work out. It calmed me down."
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