Baseball scouts search tirelessly for five-tool players. Chicago Cubs Minor Leaguer Matt Szczur is a rare 10-tool prospect. He was drafted into the organization during the 2010 Amateur Draft, and if an impressive intrasquad scrimmage performance on Friday is any indication, could find himself on the Big League roster just two years later. He went 3-4 with a grand slam (credit CubbiesCrib.com for the link).
Szczur concluded 2011 at High-A affiliate Daytona, batting .260 with a .694 OPS, five homeruns and 19 RBI in 182 at-bats. He made the move from Mid-A Peoria quickly, where he picked up from his stellar collegiate career at Villanova. Of course, at ‘Nova Szczur was perhaps more notable for his gridiron heroics. He led the Wildcats to the 2009 FCS national championship with five tools: kick returning, rushing, passing, blocking and receiving. The qualities that make him an intriguing prospect in the Cubs organization made him a key component to VU’s title run, as he took on any task head coach Andy Talley asked of him.
Likewise, he could fulfill a number of needs in the Cub farm system, and potentially the Northside as the season progresses. Spring training is afoot for the Cubbies in Mesa, Arizona, and the ensuing four weeks provide Szczur ample opportunity to prove his place in the organization.
Szczur is hardly the first athlete to excel in two sports and make the college football-to-MLB conversion. However, he is in the rare position of being able to leave lasting legacies in both. When he becomes eligible, Szczur’s career 1803 rushing yards/17 TDs, 5 passing TDs, 2 returned TDs, and 1405 receiving yards/11 touchdowns should assuredly land him on the Football Hall of Fame ballot. Should he pan out as a baseball pro, his hypothetical HoF contention would put him in a category with one of the most celebrated athletes ever, Bo Jackson.
Before Bo Knew the Kansas City Royals, he knew how to dominate SEC defenses. His Heisman winning 1985 campaign at Auburn included nearly 1800 yards and 17 touchdowns, and sealed his 1998 induction into the College Football Hall.
Kirk Gibson could join Jackson as another All-Star Major Leaguer enshrined in South Bend. He appears on the 2012 ballot, a nominee for his standout wide receiving at Michigan State. He caught 27 career scores and surpassed 2300 yards. He notched another two scores on the ground his senior season.
Gibson has more pressing matters on his mind this spring. He led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a shocking 2011 NL West title as manager. He returns as the D’Backs skipper, with expectations high entering spring training. This year’s Arizona roster is deeper than 2011’s, but gelling in March to maintain the dynamic that earned Gibson 2011 NL Manager of the Year is a priority.
The relationship between baseball and football is fascinating. The two sports have the most notable crossovers. Aside from the aforementioned football-to-baseball athletes, there are numerous examples of the switch made on the opposite end. This spring is a critical one for the future of Brandon Weeden, a former Minor Leaguer who shined as Oklahoma State’s Big 12-winning quarterback. Weeden will be a high selection in next month’s NFL Draft.
His conversion is one that’s been made before, but Weeden is using the spring to prove he’s no Drew Henson or Chris Weinke.