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San Diego Padres' Matt Szczur runs to catch a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers' Logan Forsythe during the fifth inning of the second game of a baseball doubleheader, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jae C. Hong

Matt Szczur’s major league journey will continue.

The 2007 Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate made the San Diego Padres out of spring training.

"I'm very excited about this year," Szczur said in a text. "It's a great time to be a Padre."

The Padres open the season at home against the Milwaukee Brewers at 4:10 p.m. Thursday. Szczur was 6 for 25 (.240) this spring. He hit .226 (44 for 195) with three home runs, 18 RBI and 28 runs scored last season.

The 28-year-old outfielder overcame some obstacles to make the Padres this spring. He was slowed by an oblique injury early.

San Diego also had plenty of outfield candidates. The Padres had seven players in camp who had played at least 20 outfield games last season.

San Diego also signed free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million contract in the offseason. That pushed last season’s first baseman Wil Myers to the outfield.

Szczur joined the Padres in a May 2017 trade from the Chicago Cubs for double-A pitcher Justin Hancock. He earned a World Series title ring with the 2016 Cubs.

Szczur grew up in the Erma section of Lower Township. He is one of the most accomplished athletes to ever graduate from a Cape-Atlantic League school.

He starred at baseball, football and indoor track and field for Lower Cape May. The Press named him the Male High School Athlete of the Year in 2007. He played quarterback and running back for the Caper Tigers. His speed enabled him to run away from would-be tacklers.

Szczur sparked Villanova to the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision title. But while most South Jersey sports fans knew him for his exploits at running back, Szczur also wowed baseball scouts at Villanova. He again used his speed to hit for a high average and chase down deep fly balls in the outfield.

The Cubs picked him in the fifth round of the June 2010 Major League Baseball draft.

Although there was speculation he might be drafted by an NFL team, Szczur committed fully to baseball in 2011 after signing a reported $1.5 million contract with the Cubs.

Szczur made his major-league debut Aug. 17, 2014, in New York against the Mets.

Szczur’s value to a team cannot just be summed up with statistics alone. He is known as a great teammate.

Szczur is also known for the charity work he does in Cape May County and the cities he plays in.

After Szczur was traded to the Padres, He painted a portrait of former Padres great Tony Gwynn. The picture was auctioned off to raise money for the San Diego Blood Bank.

“There’s a bigger purpose to this game than just playing,” Szczur told The Press last July. “We can help people, kids, so much beyond baseball. That’s why we play this game.”

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Contact: 609-272-7209 MMcGarry@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

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