On Thursday, March 22nd, Major League Baseball’s Spring Training claimed another victim. A promising prospect realized that his dream of making it to the big leagues was being cut short, and that he would fulfill his vision of playing at the highest level. For Matt Bush however, the choice was not that of his manager, and wasn’t due to a lack of talent. Bush made the decision for himself, and lost his latest battle with alcoholism.
On that Thursday night, an intoxicated Matt Bush was behind the wheel of the SUV that struck a 72 year old motorcyclist leaving him in critical condition where he remains today. This, sadly, is not a story of one bad decision after a night of partying. Instead, it’s the culmination of a war that has destroyed the bright future of a young man whose talent was certainly upper echelon.
To understand why this is such a tragic downfall, you’ve got to realize that Bush’s character collapse started way back in 2004 when he was selected first overall by the San Diego Padres. He was picked over the likes of Stephen Drew, Jered Weaver, and Justin Verlander, who were going to cost the Padres more money. So instead, they went with a hometown kid who, despite his 5’9” frame, was topping 99mph on the radar gun in high school.
Despite his obvious skill on the mound, the Padres instead attempted to convert Bush to a shortstop, which would only shine a light on how his talent would head south when alcohol was involved. Matt received a $150,000 signing bonus upon being drafted, with $3 million more to come. He blew through all of it on nice cars, clothes, friends, and of course, copious amounts of partying. On a particular occasion, Bush was out drinking until 5am, missed his 6am workout and didn’t report to camp until noon. It was a sign of things to come. Bush’s assignment at shortstop ended in catastrophe. In his time with San Diego he recorded 76 errors, drove in only 70 runs, and hit .219 in 259 between 04-07. It was in ’07 that the Padres staff finally decided that they would convert Matt to pitcher. The move proved to be a good one, and Bush excelled in Rookie ball and into Lower-A play. Unfortunately, the good times would not last long, and poor conditioning and lack of work ethic quickly resulted in an injury. Bush had snapped a ligament in his elbow, and after Tommy John Surgery, he was off the field for 2007 and 2008.
The injury only perpetuated his alcoholism. Every night was another excuse for Matt to continue his binging, and bar fights, and all around self-destruction. In 2009, prior to the start of spring training, Bush found himself drunk driving to a San Diego high school where he belligerently accosted two teenagers, crashed his car into a curb, and was arrested.
As a result, the Padres designated him for assignment, and he was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays. Bush found himself in an unfamiliar place, around unfamiliar people, and his addiction only worsened. Matt continued to drink himself into oblivion, and in April of 2009, he was released by the Jays.
Bush continued on the streak of debauchery, and by the end of 2009 his now infamous DUI arrest was captured on camera. The video was an embarrassing portrayal of a man completely out of control.
Despite repeated failures off the field, he somehow stayed close to the game of baseball. He entered a rehab facility, and was able to stay sober for 4 months. He was approached by a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays, and although he spent most of 2010 injured, he impressed the Tampa Bay brass enough to make the 40 man lineup come 2011. He dominated play last season in Double-A and finally displayed the talent that made him a 1st overall pick so long ago.
This season he started with the Rays Triple-A club, and all was seemingly going well. Unfortunately, this comeback story was about to come to a crashing halt. Bush’s Spring Training roommate Brandon Guyer was with Matt for the first couple months of training camp, and had no idea what was soon to take place. Guyer mentioned to Bush that he wanted to go to the training facility, and Bush offered to drop Guyer off and take his SUV back to their apartment. Bush’s teammate didn’t see the harm in the generous proposal, and took him up on it. Little did Guyer know that Bush’s license was suspended.
Then, for no reason that anyone can explain, Bush drove the SUV an hour northwest to Sarasota, Florida. He went on a drinking bender that sadly resulted in an auto accident in which he struck the victim, 72 year old Anthony Tufano. It was a vicious accident in which a witness claimed that “Literally the tire on the SUV ran over the driver’s head,”. When police caught up with Bush, he had a blood alcohol content at .18, over 2 times the legal limit.
Bush is now in jail, facing DUI and Fleeing the Scene of a Felony charges. The Tampa Bay Rays plan on releasing him, and his baseball career, along with a significant amount of time in normal society, is over. It’s a sad ending to a story of a player with so much promise.