MESA, Ariz. — A little more than a week ago, outfielder Matt Szczur asked teammates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to sign a painting featuring the Bryzzo tandem for a Cubs charity auction.
“I get there and realize he actually did it,” Bryant said, “and I’m like, ‘Man, this thing looks like a professional did it.’
“He’s really great. I want him to do one for me.”
The Cubs have appreciated Szczur’s versatility since they drafted him in the fifth round in 2010. Szczur, who was a football and baseball star at Villanova, has proved capable of playing all three outfield positions in the big leagues at a high level.
Artistic on the field at times, to be sure. But at the easel, too?
“I’ve been doing art for a long time,” said Szczur, who keeps much of his original inspirations to himself.
A communications major in college, Szczur has dabbled in art work on the side since he was a kid, taking it seriously enough to study varied media over the years — and getting good enough that he officially reached professional status in January, when he sold a pair of paintings for more than $1,000 during his second annual “Szcz the Day” fundraising dinner at his hometown of Cape May, N.J., to benefit the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation.
“I just wanted to raise some money, something different,” he said. “So I put a painting out there, just self portraits of me playing football and a picture of me swinging the bat.”
The success of that inspired him to replicate a photo of Bryant and Rizzo celebrating after the final out of the World Series to help raise money during the Cubs’ annual Bricks and Ivy Ball for charity.
“I would love to have one,” the newlywed Bryant said. “We just got a new house; I could find somewhere to hang it in there, maybe in my man cave. Hopefully, he gives me a discount.”
Szczur’s latest medium is stencil and spray paint, a method he took up during the Cubs’ abbreviated offseason, producing about 10 works using the fine-spray technique.
As much as his artistic talents might benefit important charities, Szczur, 27, also finds personal benefits that might even produce career benefits for the backup outfielder, who’s fighting again this spring for one of the Cubs’ final roster spots.
“It’s very therapeutic,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start doing it. I worked out in the mornings, so for the rest of the day I didn’t really have anything to do. My wife and I can only go so many places, so many times, do so many things.
“So if we were relaxing, I was designing.”
Bryant sounded envious.
“He should start doing it during the year,” the National League MVP said. “I mean, if I knew how to paint, I’d probably do it during the year to take my mind off things.
“For me, it’s just pen and paper, and I can maybe doodle something. But all that other stuff is a little too complex.”
(Photos courtesy Szczur’s instagram)
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