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MLB Draft history: the Matt Bush story gets another chapter

Matt Bush, a former number one overall pick in the MLB Draft, is looking to get back on the field after a three-year prison term.

Four spring trainings after a DUI landed a 72-year-old man in the hospital with serious injuries and a former number one overall pick in jail, Matt Bush is playing professional baseball again. Bush, who completed his prision term for DUI causing serious bodily injury on October 30, signed a minor league free agent deal with the Texas Rangers on December 18. He is now in Surprise, Arizona, competing alongside other Rangers' minor leaguers invited to spring training early.

The DUI accident that landed Bush in jail in 2012 took place in Florida as he was in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was driving with a blood alcohol level more than two times the legal limit of alcohol and struck 72-year-old Tony Tufano, who was on his motorcycle. Tufano was left with near fatal injuries and Bush fled the scene. Bush was arrested shortly after and eventually pled no contest to one count of DUI with great bodily injury. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison.

Bush began his professional career as a shortstop, but he had converted to the mound before the accident. The top pick in the 2004 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres has yet to live up to the pre-draft expectations on the field. 

Out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, California, Bush -- going into the draft -- was a shortstop with very high upside, especially on the defensive side of the diamond. Scouting profiles had him pegged as a medium build, athletic and agile kid with very strong forearms and wrists. His major league comparison was no slouch either as he was compared to Major League All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Bush was also highly touted as a pitcher, as he could reach up to 98 MPH on a lively fastball and a solid curve. 

But Bush never lived up to the standards of a middle round draftee, let alone the No. 1 pick. 

Bush was never the Padres' first choice in the draft; in fact he was their third option, as they highly coveted collegiate pitcher Jered Weaver and shortstop Stephen Drew. Weaver and Drew were both represented by agent Scott Boras, who is known for demanding top dollar for all players. 

While Weaver and Drew both have had good careers of their own, Bush had a rocky beginning even before stepping on the field. Not long after the draft, Bush, who was not of legal drinking age, was suspended for his actions in a bar fight in Arizona. Once on the field, Bush's rocky start to his career continued, as he struggled mightily at the plate. In his six minor league seasons, he hit a combined .219 in 812 plate appearances. That includes him only hitting 22 doubles and three home runs. 

Bush not only struggled with the bat, he also struggled with the glove despite being known for defense coming out of high school. In 1,505.1 innings played at shortstop, he compiled 76 errors leading to an abysmal .929 fielding percentage. 

Neither his bat nor his glove were good enough to get him promoted higher than Double-A. By 2007, the Padres moved Bush to the mound. Bush started out pitching brilliantly, pitching in seven games and posting a 1.17 ERA and striking out 16 batters. However, luck was not on Bush's side. In August of 2007, Bush tore a ligament in his elbow, ending his season. He would miss the entire 2008 season after having Tommy John surgery that year. 

Then on February 5, 2009, the Padres designated Bush for assignment after learning that he was allegedly intoxicated in a high school parking lot where he assaulted two local lacrosse players. The Padres traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays just five days later. Just a month after the trade, Bush was released by Toronto after attending a party where he allegedly threw a baseball at a woman’s head and banged on her car window.

The Rays were the next team to give Bush an opportunity. He joined Tampa in 2010 and played two seasons in the Rays' organization, reaching Triple-A (although not appearing in a game) by the end of the 2011 season. He was added to the Rays' 40-man roster before the 2011 season and was competing for a spot in the big leagues when he was arrested in spring 2012.

As a 30-year-old, Bush has been given a chance to revive a dead career by the Rangers. Bush signed him to a minor league deal without an invite to spring training. There have been reports that he has thrown in the 95 MPH range.  Bush joins a Rangers' organization that helped to revive the career of another former number one pick who struggled with addiction, 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.

If Bush can revive his career in the way Hamilton once did, he could leave the list of number one overall picks to not play at the MLB level. That list is only three players long right now: Bush, Steve Chilcott (1966) and Brien Taylor (1991). More importantly, Bush, who says he has been sober since 2012, will try to get his life back on the promising course he was on before addiction got ahold of him.


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