By: Nick Roark
Matt Szczur was understandably tense as he sat down to watch what he called his “greatest accomplishment” in life. The Tennessee Smokies outfielder finally saw a three-year journey come to national fruition on ESPN’s ‘E:60’ Tuesday evening as reporter Lisa Salters told the story of how Szczur helped save the life of a young Ukrainian girl, Anastasia, dying with Leukemia.
“I was so nervous. I had sweaty palms, clammy palms, whatever you want to call it,” Szczur said as he spoke to a throng of reporters at the Smokies’ playoff media session Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know why I was nervous. I wanted it to be a good piece, I wanted to have people inspired.”
The Chicago Cubs No. 14 rated prospect certainly left thousands of people – if not millions – inspired after learning of the heroics Szczur displayed when donated his own bone marrow to save the life of a baby girl in Ukraine, Anastasia.
— Matt Szczur (@superSZCZ4) September 4, 2013
The two-spot standout at Villanova University initially registered with Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry, in the spring of 2008. Two years later, Szczur was admitted to Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia to give his marrow in order to help Anastasia, whose condition had suddenly worsened.
Szczur’s bone marrow was successfully transferred just hours later to now 4-year-old Anastasia, who is currently in remission and living a healthy life.
The ‘E:60’ feature, which followed Szczur from his time at Villanova up to meeting Anastasia and her family via Skype, accomplished exactly what the New Jersey native had hoped for.
“I wanted people to take my piece away and say, ‘Hey, I want to go sign up for the bone marrow registry.’ And that’s what I think I did.”
“ESPN, ‘E:60′ did an amazing job and I couldn’t think they could do anything better than that,” Szczur said. “It was definitely really, really exciting to see.”
— DJ LeMahieu (@DJLeMahieu) September 4, 2013
The piece garnered national attention from a variety of former and current teammates, media members and even MLB players such as former Smoky and current Colorado Rockies infielder D.J. Lamahieu. Even Southern League opponents, like Montgomery Biscuits outfielder Mikie Mahtook, reached out to Szczur to acknowledge the heroic deed.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the feature had gathered 14,557 views on YouTube.
“It was a really good feature and he’s a great guy,” Szczur’s teammate and Smokies first baseman Justin Bour said. “What he did was really, really awesome and it’s something for all of us to look up to.”
To stay current with all the latest news, follow Smokies on Radio on Twitter and like the Smokies on Radio Facebook page. Nick Roark is the Senior Beat Writer for the Smokies Radio Network. You can follow him on Twitter here: NickRoark4.