Unlike most professional sports, baseball requires individuals to make their way through the minor leagues. Some are lucky to breeze through a farm system, while others, have to fight their way up. Take Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur for example.
Which does happen, believe it or not. Maybe a few received a taste, only to hit the minors again for the remainder of their career. Not Chicago Cubs related, but for instance, Mike Hessman.
Hessman, 38, played with the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, and New Yorks Mets. Atlanta drafted him during the 1996 draft — same class as former Chicago Cubs pitcher, Jason Marquis. So, he spent the majority of his career attempting a comeback.
Last season, Hessman broke the minor league home run record when he launched his 433rd homer in August of 2015. The seasoned veteran is now currently the hitting coach for a Tigers affiliate.
Now, I’m not saying that Matt Szczur is going to end up like Hessman. Yet while we’re on the topic of bouncing between minor and the big leagues, Szczur is familiar with it.
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Matt bounced between Triple-A Iowa and the Chicago Cubs in 2015 while Hessman was chasing a record. Szczur served the Cubs well, becoming a reliable bench player to fill in when needed and even homered off Clayton Kershaw.
Not to mention, a walk-off single against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, he had a little help from Gregory Polanco who lost his footing in right field. A moment that Polanco and Szczur will never forget.
This season, Szczur has put up career numbers. Granted, he hasn’t played much, the 27-year-old has clubbed five homers, 22 RBI, eight doubles, one triple, and 44 hits. In addition, slashing .268/.322/.421.
But with the Cubs on another postseason run, one man emerged from the baseball shadows after years of not playing. No, Tim Tebow never played professional baseball, in fact, hasn’t swung a bat since 2005. The Los Angeles Angels expressed interest in drafting him out of high school.
"“He’s a good athlete. The biggest thing is hitting the baseball in the game. Anyone can hit 400-foot home runs in batting practice. That’s the most difficult part of playing baseball, the variable of the pitcher with (fastballs), sinkers, sliders, cut fastballs, and change-ups. That’s what makes it hard.” — Szczur via Chicago Tribune."
Instead, he later attended Florida and became a successful college quarterback. We all know the Tebow story — head into the National Football League, turn a few heads for a bit and then vanished from the league itself.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Tebow had decided to make a run at professional baseball, holding workouts. Almost every team in the league, aside from the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics, attended.
And with the media buzzing over Tebow hitting 400 ft. home runs during batting practice, one of Joe Maddon‘s boys spoke out. Szczur played both football and baseball while attending Villanova and even saved the life of a little girl he had never met.
Matt, like Jeff Samardzija, could have easily made it to the NFL. But professional baseball was the obvious choice for Szczur who was drafted in 2010. His debut came on Aug. 17th, 2014.
As noted in a quote above, Matt acknowledged how good of an athlete Tebow is. And before you move forward, please don’t mention names such as Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. Compared to Tim Tebow, those men were on a completely different level — freakish level of play on both the diamond and gridiron.
Well, maybe Jackson more than Sanders. Regardless, Szczur had some concerns. And later added to the quote above by saying, “And being away from the game that long? What’s it take on average for a player to make it to the big leagues? Four years? Five years?”
Leading up to, “And that’s if you ever make it to the big leagues. So if he makes it to the big leagues at 34, 35? Then what?” A question that most of us had asked ourselves when we found out that Tebow wanted to pursue a career in baseball.
If he does, however, end up making it the majors, it would be with a team who is currently in rebuild mode. For instance, the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies. Philadelphia could be a destination considering how well he played for the Eagles during pre-season in 2015.
Only time, in the end, will tell. Again, thankfully, it won’t be with the Chicago Cubs. Best of luck to Tebow.