The Tampa Bay Rays made the first cuts of spring training today. Among them was former first round pick Matt Bush, who is hoping for something akin to a Josh Hamilton-esque revival. Bush was a high school short stop drafted by the San Diego Padres with the first pick of the 2004 draft. Like many young athletes who didn’t grow up with money, the $3.15 million he was paid by the Padres seemed like the beginning of a never-ending money spigot.
Bush was to find out soon enough how quickly that spigot gets shut off.
I remember reading stories about him fighting in an Arizona night club. Bush was suspended before he ever set foot on a professional diamond. He was trouble, and eventually that trouble took him completely out of the game. He could easily have been just another body on the trash dump of failed baseball prospects. Instead, his arrest on June 28th, 2009 was a turning point, although I’m fairly certain it didn’t feel that way at the time. Bush had hit rock bottom, and when you have fallen as far as he fell … well, first it hurts like hell…and second, it seems like a very long way just to get back to even.
Fast forward to spring 2011. After spending time getting right, Bush pitched a few innings in the Rays farm system in 2010 and earned an invitation to camp. While he didn’t get past the first cut, he did garner praise from Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon.
It would be something to see the Rays resurrect another former number one player. Ron Shandler at Baseball HQ would tell you that once a player shows a skill he owns it. In the case of Matt Bush maybe, just maybe, the lessons he has learned will help him rediscover something he thought was lost for good.