Matt Szczur — Athlete, Artist, Humanitarian
Matt Szczur, an outfielder in the San Diego Padres organization, originally conceived of art as a simple hobby he picked up from his father. An “outlet for him to escape from the pressures of everyday life,” according to his website, szcztheday.com.
Szczur’s work has garnered widespread attention in the athletic community recently, and it’s safe to say his hobby has evolved into another career. A teammate discovered some of his old pieces, asked Szczur if he would paint something for him, and Matt Szczur the baseball player quickly became Matt Szczur the athlete-artist.
“When you’re playing, and I don’t know if this goes for every athlete, but you really don’t think about anything other than focusing on the game," Szczur said. "I think the hardest thing is, when you’re off the field, you sit and reminisce and think about your at-bat, or pitches, or an error. I think as far as the mind works, it’s harder after the game than before and during the game. So I feel like for me, art was a way to put that away and focus on other stuff.”
Szczur studied an assortment of mediums from high school to college at Villanova University. Although his forte is spray paint, Szczur also works with acrylics and watercolors.
“I like painting whatever, it doesn’t matter," Szczur said. "I like the challenge … Spray paint is my favorite, that’s been my latest stuff. I’ve been grinding on that lately. Acrylics and watercolors are what I did in college and high school early on.”
Szczur made his MLB debut in 2014 for the Chicago Cubs. After receiving recognition through social media and Chicago-area newspapers, the Chicago Cubs Charities asked him to paint an image depicting the 2016 World Series.
Szczur is not only an athlete-artist but a humanitarian as well. When he was a two-sport star at Villanova, Matt found a calling more important than his budding baseball career and efforts to lead Nova to the FCS Championship as a wide receiver. After being named the title game’s MVP following a 270-yard, two touchdown performance, the national bone marrow registry reached out to Szczur.
Anastasia Olkhovsky, a leukemia-stricken child in the Ukraine, required a bone-marrow transplant. Despite a 1-in-80,000 longshot, Matt was a match. The exhausting, three-hour procedure was performed just one month before the Cubs selected Szczur in the 2010 draft.
In May 2011, Szczur learned that the transplant had been successful, and met Anastasia and her family for the first time over Skype.
“For me, seeing the impact that I had on their family, and feeling like a part of their family, just made me want to give other people the opportunity to do that, and to give people other opportunities to help out others," Szczur said.
To check out more of Szczur’s work, visit https://szcztheday.com/blog/matts-artwork/ .
His wife, Natalie Szczur, curates the family blog. To read more about the Szczur family, visit https://szcztheday.com/blog/about/ .
“My wife and I put on an event for our foundation every year. I’m going to paint like ten Philadelphia greats," Szczur said. "At the event people will bid on the pieces and we’re going to split the money between my charity and (Villanova football) coach (Andy) Talley’s charity.”
The Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation seeks to “increase the odds of finding lifesaving donors for patients in need of a marrow transplant by registering young, committed donors to the Be The Match Registry.” For more information, visit https://www.talleybonemarrow.org/ .
The fourth annual “Szcz The Day” Dinner Event will feature a silent auction of Matt’s work, with proceeds benefiting the Matthew Szczur Foundation and Be The Match. The date is TBD.