On Your Marc: 5/24/16

A passing brush with No. 1 Bush

By Marc Katz

There’s a fascination with being No. 1, and since I’m always looking for the slightest connection with Dayton, the recent promotion of pitcher Matt Bush to the Texas Rangers revived a memory.

Bush became part of two sports news cycles the past two weeks, first when he made it to the majors after 12 years, most of it as a minor league shortstop, some of it as a prisoner after being arrested for drunk driving and almost killing a man who was riding a motorcycle.

He was one of only three overall No. 1 picks to not have made the majors (through the 2012 draft) since the draft was instituted in 1965. (Catcher Steve Chilcott of the Mets in 1966 and pitcher Brien Taylor of the Yanks in 1991, both done in by arm injuries, were the others.)

Just a few days after Bush made his major league debut at age 30, it was his pitch that hit Toronto’s Jose Bautista, putting him on base, leading to the hard slide into second baseman Rougned Odor, leading to the punch you’ve seen a hundred times already on all the sports talk shows and the internet.

I thought I’d let you know some of Bush’s story actually takes place in Dayton—in 2005, when he was playing shortstop for the then Fort Wayne Wizards.

According to his game logs for that season, Bush hit just .146 against the Dragons in 14 games, half of them played at Fifth Third Field.

He wasn’t a very good shortstop either, as I recall, but he was the top draft pick in 2004 by the San Diego Padres, and I thought he was worth a story for the Dayton Daily News.

If he wasn’t much of a ballplayer, he was more elusive to interviews. It was suggested I get with his people and get back with him.

I passed. He hit .221 for the season, and stories of his drinking started to surface.

He didn’t turn out to be much of a No. 1 pick, but is part of a small group of overall No. 1’s who have played in Dayton, including (I’m naming the teams that drafted them, not necessarily who the players are with now) Florida’s Adrian Gonzalez (2000 draft, 2001 Kane County), Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (2001, 2002 Quad Cities), Arizona’s Justin Upton (2005, 2006 South Bend), Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar (2006, 2006 Burlington), Houston’s Carlos Correa (2012, 2013 Quad Cities) and Houston’s Mark Appel (2013, 2013 Quad Cities).

Hochevar did not pitch at Fifth Third Field. As far as I can tell—and remember—the others did play here.

Why do I think being No. 1 is important? Right or wrong in the ranking, how many people do you know who are considered the top of their profession? Is your doctor the top physician in town? In the state? In the country?

How about your lawyer friend or your business friend or the teacher who works with your children 10 months a year?

Certainly No. 1 picks don’t always work out, and once they make the majors, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

But there is a certain buzz. Sports are different from what the rest of us do. I know a lot of people think the Cincinnati Reds stink this season, and they’re well on their way to a losing season.

How about looking at it from the other side? If the Reds fielded the worst player at each of its 25 roster spots, those 25 players at worst would be the best 30 players in the world.

There are only 30 teams.

In how many other professions can you do that? And usually, in other professions, a person can perform at peak for many more years than an athlete. Most even high-level athletes are starting a downslide at 30 and are done playing by 35. Certainly only a few make it to 40.

You likely have more than half your life to live once you reach that age.

And you think you have competition in your office? For each man on a 25-person roster in the big leagues there are similar rosters in Class AAA, Class AA, advanced Class A, low Class A and two rookie teams.

That’s seven players for each major league position, not counting players in the Venezuelan and Dominican summer leagues and extra players on rehab.

Bush has fought through all that, and his personal demons. There was controversy with his pick in the first place. San Diego was rumored to be more interested in Stephen Drew and Jared Weaver—and, as it turned out, should have been—but those two players were represented by Scott Boras, a demanding agent some teams, including the Padres, thought was too demanding.

Bush profiled as a shortstop or pitcher, and San Diego chose shortstop.

His playing in Dayton does not rise to the moment Sarah Palin stopped by to say hello as the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, or whatever’s going to happen in the first presidential debate here in September, but Bush’s brief stop in Dayton in 2005 was a moment.

If you were at Fifth Third Field for any of those games, you have a connection to a No. 1.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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