April 4, 2016.
Villanova defeats North Carolina to win their first NCAA Championship in 30 years.
Less than a half hour later, some 1,500 miles away, former Villanova football and baseball player Matt Szczur hit a bases-clearing three-run double for the Chicago Cubs.
The next night, Cubs manager Joe Maddon started Szczur “because he went to Villanova”. Szczur promptly hit a home run.
Fast forward to the 2016 NLCS. The Chicago Cubs are down 2-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Dodgers had handled the Cubs in the previous two games, shutting down their offense. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, two of Chicago’s young stars, were particularly struggling. Rizzo decided to change things up and use Szczur’s bat. Suddenly, his slump ended. Russell had also been wearing something of Szczur’s — his underwear. Like Rizzo, Russell’s slump ended as well.
Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. Chicago trailed the series, 3-1, going into game five. Szczur wasn’t on the playoff roster. He hasn’t had a single at-bat this postseason, in fact. But, without his contributions, the Cubs wouldn’t be champions right now.