Anybody can catch a touchdown pass or hit a homerun, but there's not many that can save a life!
.... Matt Szczur, Bone Marrow Donor
It painless, it takes just a few minutes and it could save a cancer victims life....
The 2nd Annual
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Time: ?? to??
Lower Cape May Regional High School
687 Rte 9 * Cape May, NJ 08204
For more information call LCMR (609) 884-3475
Star in sports, hero in life
By SEAN KERNAN, Staff Writer - The Daytona Beach Journal
September 6, 2011 12:05 AM
Posted in: Daytona Cubs
DAYTONA BEACH -- Matt Szczur knows a thing or two about helping someone beat the odds.
The Daytona Cubs' center fielder also knows what it feels like to win a national championship.
As a Villanova University student-athlete, Szczur helped the Wildcats win the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision national title.
Several months later, the two-sport athlete put his junior baseball season on hold for a very good cause. He helped save a 19-month-old girl's life as she battled leukemia by donating peripheral blood stem cells after he proved to be a rare match.
The odds of someone with leukemia finding a match for a bone marrow transplant or peripheral blood stem cell donation: 1 in 80,000.
"It's amazing that they can find out you're a match with four swabs inside the corner of your mouth," Szczur said after Sunday's regular-season finale at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. "It's pretty remarkable. I would like to think that anybody who had a chance to do it would do it.
"Me doing this, it was big for me. I've been fortunate to win a national (college football) championship, but being able to help someone like that -- to get the chance to help save a life -- that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's awesome."
When Szczur signed up with Be the Match registry as a freshman at Villanova, little did he know that he'd get an opportunity to become someone's hero.
"The thing is, anybody can do it," Szczur said. "You don't have to be someone who hits home runs or whatever."
Szczur hopes to one day meet the little girl and her family, possibly during the coming offseason, but for now he has gotten updates from a liaison with Be the Match.
"Along the way I hope to meet her and her family," Szczur said. "Hopefully we can do it in the offseason. There's a one-year waiting period for privacy reasons, and I certainly understand the need for that."
And maybe when Szczur meets that little girl, he'll do so as a Florida State League champion. The Cubs open the FSL playoffs at 7 tonight in Dunedin against the Blue Jays. The winner of the best-of-3 series will go on to face the FSL South Division Series winner -- either the St. Lucie Mets or Bradenton Marauders -- for the league championship.
The athlete's introduction to Be the Match came via Villanova football coach Andy Tally, who has been affiliated with the bone marrow donation program for nearly 20 years. Tally's efforts in hosting Be the Match drives has resulted in about 20,000 potential donors being registered.
Once Szczur was identified as a match, plans were put in place to conduct the blood stem cells procedure. He was given daily injections of a drug called filgrastim for five days to increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. Then he went to a hospital for the procedure that took less than four hours.
"It was fairly easy," Szczur said. "You have needles in each arm. One draws blood out and it's filtered through a machine, and the other needle puts the blood back in. It didn't hurt. Three and a half hours and it was done. I watched some TV -- (the movie) Dumb and Dumber."
Szczur missed about a month of his college baseball season because of muscle pain and other side effects that come from the injections, he said. But up until then he played 36 games and was leading the Wildcats in batting average (.435), slugging (.635), doubles (11) triples (6) and home runs (3).
That 2010 season would be his last in college. The Cubs drafted Szczur in the fifth round about a month later, and he signed for a $100,000 bonus.
But the 6-foot-1, 200-pound athlete wasn't sure what direction he was going to go. He was, after all, the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 FCS title game after running for 159 yards and totaling 270 all-purpose yards in the 23-21 victory over Montana.
Szczur was Mr. Everything. He played wide receiver, running back, returned kicks and punts, and even took snaps at quarterback. He had 2,239 all-purpose yards in 2009, was a consensus First-Team All-American, the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year, and the only player in FBS or FCS to score a TD as a receiver, passer, rusher and kick returner that season.
Szczur returned to Villanova for his senior football season in 2010, but played just eight games because of injury. However, upon his return in the FCS playoffs he had a career-high 11 receptions in a first-round playoff win; in a quarterfinal triumph over Appalachian State he threw for a TD, caught a TD pass and ran for a third score.
But soon his football days were over. In January, Szczur agreed not to pursue a career in the NFL in exchange for an additional $1.4 million contract with the Cubs.
"I'm happy with my choice; I don't have any regrets at all," said Szczur, who is hitting .260 with five homers, 19 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 43 games with Daytona. "I really don't miss football. I had been around it so much. I had had enough of it. It's good that I'm focusing on baseball."
Now, the 22-year-old outfielder who just might be the best overall athlete in the organization is ready to play in his first pro postseason. Szczur expects to play in tonight's series opener. He tweaked a hamstring in the final days of the regular season and was held out of Sunday's finale against Brevard County.
"They just wanted to make sure I'm good for the playoffs," Szczur said. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited."
Given Szczur's past ability to rise to the occasion in postseason play on a football field, and him being a donor through the Be the Match program, Daytona manager Buddy Bailey said the outfielder has instant credibility as an athlete and a person in the Cubs' clubhouse.
"When you're such an outstanding athlete as he is, you get a lot of respect inside the clubhouse," Bailey said. "People know his story -- when he donated (the blood stem cells) to the little girl -- and how he's been a two-sport guy in college. Then they see how he plays. How he's not afraid to put his body on the line to make a play. He's not only a gifted athlete, but a good young man."
Q: Why is there a need for people to join the Be The Match Registry?
A: Thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases depend on the Be The Match RegistryŽ to find a match to save their life. Patients need donors who are a genetic match. Even with a registry of millions, many patients cannot find a match. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed.
Lily's mom gives birth to her baby boy Joseph - 2 hours later, while in the recovery room she learns that her 2 year old daughter Lily (who had blood work a day earlier due to a rash that would not go away) has AML Leukemia and has to be rushed to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia that very day! Luckily, her 4 year old sister is a perfect Bone Marrow Match and bravely helped her sister into remission. Nine months later we dropped off a $10,000 check from the Freeza Poloosa Rock Fest to help Lily and her family with the insane expense of caring for a child with cancer ... We turned on a digital camera our timing was perfect.
We agree with Lily's daddy ... they are TOUGH GIRLS!
Here's a couple of Matt's young friends from Cape May County who are Cancer Survivors!
Proof that your SWAB is important to a cancer patient.
Macey who was undergoing Chemo during this conversation in 2010 has returned to school and has fought off her cancer thanks to her big sister and donor Melissa, an Upper Township Teacher....
Wonder what is harder on the body?
A Bone Marrow Transplant or 9 Temple Owls trying to rip your head off....