And for those of you who normally skip past articles that have anything to do with sports, avoid the temptation here. This is not about sports, that's just the the environment. This is about personal sacrifice on behalf of others. In fact, if you want to just skip everything here and jump down to the third-to-last paragraph to click on the link, go ahead. Personally, I think reading the background helps set it all up properly, But to each their own.
As most readers of these pages have probably figured out by this time, I quite like the beloved Chicago Cubs. And it was pretty joyous for them to have won their first World Series in 108 years. But winning the World Series is one thing (albeit an extremely big thing...), but winning it with people you really like is another. And by "people you really like," I mean people who even fans of rival teams -- and even non sports-fans -- can't but help like.
And I don't even just mean really good guys like Kris Bryant, David Ross, Javier Baez, manager Joe Maddon with his Respect 90 foundation charity, and more. But also people like Anthony Rizzo, who I've written about here, who overcame Hodgkins lymphoma and runs the Rizzo Family Foundation charity for cancer research and family support; and Jon Lester, who overcame cancer and runs the NVRQT charity for children with cancer -- and Matt Szczur.
You probably don't know Matt Szczur -- let alone how to pronounce his last name. (It's "see-zer," as in "Julius." I guess the family loved playing Scrabble and had the hard letters left over.) In fact, for most people who know him outside of Chicago, it's because he lent his bat to teammate Anthony Rizzo during the playoffs that got Rizzo out of his slump. But far more than lending a bat, he definitely falls into the "Boy, is he a great guy" category.
I've liked Matt Szczur when he was still in the minor leagues for the Cubs, and I followed his progress. It wasn't until he made the major leagues, though, that I learned his story. I won't go into why he's a great guy at length, because this 14-minute featurette from ESPN's E:60 series does a far better job. But the short version is that when in college, Szczur signed up to be a potential bone marrow donor. There was only a 1-in-80,000 chance he'd be a match -- but when it turned out that someone in need was a perfect match (a 15-month old girl from the Ukraine, but identities on both sides were kept anonymous for a year), Matt Szczur went into the hospital at the risk of his baseball career. That's because it was only a short while before the major league draft, a time when pro scouts are finalizing their reports on what players teams should draft, and the procedure would take Szczur out of commission for a long period. But Szczur went ahead with it. And the story continues from there. There's more to the background, too.
There's a YouTube video of ESPN's piece I could embed, but they did a follow-up featurette which expands the story and is far better (which is saying a lot, because the original was wonderful). I'm not sure if the updated video has even run on the network yet, but Szczur has it posted on a private site, which you can access with a password that he provides.
You can watch it here -- and enter the password, "Szczur."
It's about 14 minutes, terrific, and you will now know Matt Szczur, remember how to pronounce his name, and likely become a big fan. Even if you support other teams or can't even stand sports.
And now I'll play unfair, and embed photos below. I dare you not to watch the featurette now...