After Three Years in Jail, 2004 Draft’s #1 Pick Finally Gets Call Up to Big Leagues

Kenny Powers HBO

Matt Bush, the number-one pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, finally arrives in the big leagues tonight in Texas.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the Texas Rangers call-up. Players selected in 2004 after Bush but debuting before him include Jake Arrieta, Justin Verlander, and Dustin Pedroia. The delayed rookie season follows three years in jail and a decade or so toiling around the minor league systems of the Padres, Blue Jays, Rays, and Rangers. Eastbound and Down premiered and concluded before Bush, a stranger-than-fiction Kenny Powers doppelganger, stepped onto a major-league diamond.

Bush served time after injuring a 72-year-old motorcyclist in Florida in March 2012. The shortstop-turned-relief-pitcher pleaded no contest to a driving under the influence charge. After running over the man’s helmeted head, Bush allegedly decompressed at a local strip club.

Bush’s rap sheet includes receiving a suspension for a bar fight prior to even lacing up his cleats for his first professional game, allegedly throwing a baseball at a woman’s head whom he suspected of writing on him while unconscious, and beating up a freshman lacrosse player in a high school parking lot as an adult while screaming “I’m Matt f—ing Bush.”

The Rangers signed him in December shortly after he got out of the can under the wise preconditions that he not drink, that he not drive, and that he not go anywhere unaccompanied by his babysitter: dad, who, like his son, gets a second-chance here to clean up a mess he made. Kenny Powers had Stevie Janowski, Matt Bush has Danny Bush. Thirty’s the new ten.

Even if fans peg him as a pretty awful person, scouts say he’s a pretty awesome pitcher.

And as that master of the comeback Kenny Powers could tell you, that’s all that matters: “Ask anybody out there, and they’ll tell you that the foundation of a great baseball player starts with an understanding of some basic fundamentals. Running, stretching, physical conditioning. These are the things that prepare your body for the many challenges a baseball player faces. I heard that bulls— thrown at me all my damn life. You know what Kenny Powers says? Fundamentals are the crutch for the talentless.”