MadFriars Q & A: Matt Bush

Matt Bush carries higher expectations at 19 years of age than most of us will carry in a lifetime. The 2004 #1 overall pick got off to a rough start in Lo-A Fort Wayne, but lately things have been coming around for the shortstop. MadFriars caught up with Bush and talked to him about those expectations, defense, focus, and what it will take for him to move up to the next level, and the one after that, and the one after that.

MadFriars:  You're a number one overall pick, but you're also only 19 years old, how do balance the pressure?


Matt Bush:  I think it's pretty tough, I just think of myself as being such a young guy and I'm not ahead of everyone anymore like I was in high school.  A lot guys down here have learned the ways of the pro game, and I'm still learning how to play with a bunch of pro players.  I'm just looking to get better as the year goes, after I'm a little more in tune with how things are done, I'll be more comfortable.


MadFriars:  You've struggled a little this year, but obviously the Padres have faith in you, or they would have kept you in extended spring training.  I know the numbers aren't what you'd like them to be, but how are you feeling about the season?


Matt Bush:  I didn't really have a good start, I got away from things I was working on and slumped early.  Lately though I've gotten back into things and been more focused on each individual at bat.  That's the key, is just to be more relaxed, to focus on individual pitches.  I'm going to make outs, nobody bats 1.000, but I'm not giving at bats away anymore.


MadFriars:  What has been the single biggest difference between high school ball and the pros?


Matt Bush:  High School is just so much easier, especially with metal bats.  Back in high school I was tearing the pitching apart and the game came easy.  In big situations it wasn't difficult to come through.  I could hit bad pitchers, nobody was throwing real hard, but here, in pro ball, with wood bats and better pitching, it's like it's a different game.


MadFriars:  Scout yourself for me, where do you excel, where do you need the most work?


Matt Bush:  I'm not sure; I want my defense to be the first thing.  I know I'm going to hit, and my defense has always been really good, so that's where I want my focus to be.  I want to cut down on the errors.  It seems like I've always been able to make the fantastic or amazing play and then the routine ball is something I have problems with.  I know that comes from not concentrating, and I've been working on staying in the game and just keeping it simple.


MadFriars:  Where in the lineup did you hit in high school?  Is it odd for you to be hitting down in the order?


Matt Bush:  I hit lead off in high school, and it's a little bit different.  I always liked to get the first at bat in right away.  If  I can come through with a hit right away, I know I've got good speed, and I'm a good base runner, so I feel like I can make things happen.  I didn't have a great start, and other guys were hot, so I've been hitting down in the order, but things are evening out.  Other guys are cooling off, and I'm starting to put it together, so hopefully I'll move back up.  I'm going to get pitched to, other pitchers know who I am, know that I was the number one pick, so I'll see pitches.


MadFriars:  Do you feel like you've got a target on your back because you were the number one pick?  Do you think other pitchers get amped up because they want to prove they can get the number one pick out?


Matt Bush:  At times I think they do, but most of the time I don't even think about it.  You can't think about it, you just have to stay calm and relaxed.  At first I thought about it a lot but now I think maybe they focus on me, but those guys are out there trying to prove themselves too.


MadFriars:  Defense has been a little shaky, what is the biggest thing you need to do to improve that area of your game?


Matt Bush:  Right now it's just a mind thing for me.  I was making all the routine plays early in the season, and then I had one or two bad plays and so it starts to play on your mind, "I don't want to make an error," is what you're thinking, and that's not the way to get it done.


MadFriars:  What would be a good 2005 for you?


Matt Bush:  I think a good season would be to hit around .280 and keep the errors down.  It's still early for me in pro ball; I'm really concentrating on working on the mental side of the game.  I'm just trying to always be in the game, to concentrate, not thinking about the next game, or my numbers or where I'll be next week or next year, but instead just looking forward to the next pitch.  If I had a good year I'd score a lot of runs and drive in a lot of runs, but the key for me is not to put numbers out for a week, but for a full season.  The thing is, that's what I need to do, to produce for a full season, but the way I need to think about it is to think about right now, this pitch, instead of the season.


MadFriars:  What was your first offseason like, what kind of work were you doing?


Matt Bush:  A lot of offseason conditioning, a lot of weight lifting, just trying to get stronger, and get some more power.  It was tough, this was my first spring training where I was at work everyday, with no days off, and I got out there three weeks early, so it was even longer for me.  One of the biggest things you learn is that there is always going to be a little pain, and you just play through it.  This spring I got hit once and I thought I wasn't going to be able to walk, much less play, but the coaches wanted me to play through it, and I didn't think I could but I did.  That taught me a lot right there.  That's a lot of the coach's focus in the spring, is playing through stuff.  When your legs are really sore because you're not used to playing everyday, you think you need a day off, but what you learn is that if you play through it, it actually helps you.  Right about now my legs are good, I'm not hurting everywhere, I have a little bit of tightness, but I've learned that you play through it, and it gets better.


MadFriars:  Is it odd to have all that media attention for two months right after the draft and then to have it all sort of disappear?


Matt Bush:  Not really, it's better this way.  With all the media, I mean its fun to have for awhile, the media wants a piece of you.  It's flattering, it feels good, but it's nice to get back to real life.  I don't want to be that guy who the media always want to get a hold of.  It isn't really who I am, and I can see the other guys don't feel as good when there's only one person the media is talking to, so it's good to just get back to the everyday stuff, just be with my team and play hard.  That's what I like.


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