With good news related to baseball as widespread as rain in the desert lately, it’s tough to get excited for much of anything MLB-related lately. We’ll keep our fingers crossed but the confidence in the leadership and future of the league has got to be at an all-time low. In other news, former Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur announced his retirement from baseball. While he never blew anyone away with his production, he made some great memories during his time in Chicago.
Szczur spent four of his five MLB seasons with the Cubs and produced a career average of .231 with an on-base-percentage of .312. Again, there was nothing eye-popping about his numbers as he was a utility man, but we want to reflect on some of his coolest moments as a Cub.
The first distinct memory that comes to mind is from back in 2015. The Cubs were in the midst of their coming out party. Of course, that marked Joe Maddon and Jon Lester’s first year with the team, Kris Bryant’s Rookie of the Year season and one that was highlighted by the team’s first postseason series-clinching victory at Wrigley Field where they knocked off the MLB-best St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS.
During late June, the Cubs welcomed the Dodgers to town for a four-game set. After a dominant 8-0 win in the series opener, they sat at 38-30 and there was some excitement building around the team. However, Clayton Kershaw was set to take the mound in Game two.
Kershaw had just come off a 2014 season in which he won the NL Cy Young and MVP awards, led the league in ERA at 1.77 and wins with 21. Not only home runs, but hits came at a rarity against the left-hander – who was at the top of his game.
In a 2-1 ball game heading into the seventh inning, Szczur took one out to deep left off Kershaw to build a 3-1 lead and helped the Cubs lock up a 4-2 victory. Considering how unhittable Kershaw seemed at the time, having our utility-man in Szczur unload one off him was a moment I’ll always remember.
The next memory of Szczur comes during that same 2015 season in one of the wildest games from that year. The Cubs had Pittsburgh in town for a series in mid-May. We didn’t know at the time but the Pirates would end the season with the second-best record in baseball behind the Cardinals and would match up with the Cubs in the epic Wild Card Game in which Jake Arrieta tossed a complete game.
The Cubs took a 10-5 lead into the eighth but watched the Pirates tie it at 10 to go to extra innings. During the twelfth inning, Szczur came up with the bases loaded and hit what appeared to be a pop-out to Gregory Polanco in right field. However, Polanco tripped on the grass and let the ball drop, allowing a run to score and give the Cubs an 11-10 win. A lucky one nonetheless, but a walk-off for Szczur in one Cubs fans will never forget.
The last distinct memory of Szczur comes from the World Series run in 2016. Szczur was part of the team but unfortunately didn’t make the NLCS or World Series rosters. However his impact was still felt. Anthony Rizzo had been struggling at the plate during the postseason. Fatigue had set in and he found himself in a slump. He decided to use Szczur’s bat for the final 10 games which ended up being shorter and lighter. During that stretch, he batted .432 and helped the Cubs end the 108-year curse. The legend behind Szczur’s bat is one that will definitely not be forgotten.
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It’s awesome to see how what seemed to be a little known player gave the Cubs a lot of cool moments to remember. While his career was short he definitely made his mark on the organization and its fans and we wish him the best as he enters retirement.