When it was the Chicago Cubs' turn to pick in the fifth round, the living room in Lance Bailey's home quieted on Tuesday.

Matt Szczur, along with 20 family members and friends, watched the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Entry draft at his former high school football coach's home in Lower Township.

The Cubs had shown the most interest in the Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate recently and indicated they were interested in signing him.

Szczur grew nervous. This was his shot.

The draft was only available on MLB.com, but a computer was connected to a television where everyone got to watch.

When Szczur's name popped up on the screen, the nerves eased and he high-fived and hugged his family.

The Cubs picked Szczur, in the fifth round (160th overall).

"Everybody is excited," said Szczur, who is from the Erma section of Lower Township and a former Press Male Athlete of the Year. "It was emotional,

too. My family is here and they have seen how hard I worked for this day to come."

The Villanova University 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. This spring as a redshirt sophomore, he became the first Villanova baseball player since 1997 to hit better than .400 in a season.

Szczur, 20, still has a year of eligibility left to play football (and two years for baseball) and has maintained that he doesn't know what he will do, but it looks as though Szczur will play baseball very, very soon.

Szczur's father, Marc, has been talking to interested clubs, including Chicago. Szczur is not allowed to have an agent since he is still an amateur.

"We're going to hopefully work out a deal with (Chicago)," Marc Szczur said. "Within a week, he will be playing somewhere with the Chicago Cubs."

Chicago general manager Jim Hendry called Szczur immediately after the Cubs picked him. According to Szczur, Hendry just congratulated him and said he saw him work out several times.

Szczur had plenty of assets that excite baseball teams. He led Villanova in eight offensive categories, including a .487 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage. In addition, his .443 batting average is the fourth highest in school history.

He went to Villanova on a football scholarship because the Wildcats also let him play baseball.

This is Szczur's second time being drafted. He was picked in the 38th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 right out of high school.

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.

Szczur missed part of this season when he donated his bone marrow to a 19-month-old girl with leukemia in May. The missed time was never considered an issue and only helped with his character.

Marc spoke about all of these attributes when he talked to scouts and baseball officials.

"My job for the last two weeks was to talk about my son. It's my favorite pastime," Marc said. "I did it 30, 40 to 50 times, right up to this morning."

A fifth-round pick doesn't guarantee anything. Szczur will have to work hard in the minor leagues - if he signs - to get a shot at playing in the majors.

Since the start of the MLB draft in 1965, 33 percent of Chicago's fifth-round picks have made it to the big club.

Other past notable fifth-round draft picks include Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard in 2001, New York Mets pitcher John Maine (Baltimore Orioles, 2002) and Colorado's Garrett Atkins in 2000.

Since 1965, six of the players drafted 160th overall have played in the Majors.

The Cubs' best pick in the fifth round was catcher Joe Girardi in 1986.

"It was a very emotional moment," Marc said. "We sort of knew for a day or so what was going to happen. We were more or less just waiting for it to happen.

"We were waiting for the right moment."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:


Who: Matt Szczur

Age: 20

Home town: Erma sectional of Lower Township

High school: Lower Cape May Regional, where he was The Press Baseball Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year in 2007

College: Villanova (led Wildcats to Football Championship Subdivision national title last fall, batted .443 in springfor baseball team)

When drafted: Fifth round Tuesday by the Chicago Cubs (No. 160 overall)

Notable fifth-rounders: Ryan Howard (Phillies, 2001), John Maine (Orioles, 2002) and Harrett Atkins (Rockies, 2000).

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