When it all seems lost, is it really over?
Another spring training workout in 2016. Ninety-eight baseball players dressed in identical Texas Ranger warm-ups, stretching their backs, cover the field. Danny’s son had always been easy to find with his 98 mph fastball and a fleet of fast cars. Now he’s been assigned to Auxiliary Field Six with a bunch of 18 year old rookies and career minor leaguers. The Ranger’s star players have left the field; the security guards are headed home; the fans have put away their autograph books —all that’s left is the minor league pitchers grinding it out.
Danny can’t find his son on the field. This is particularly concerning because Danny is contractually obligated to keep on eye on his son, who just turned 30. He chauffeurs him to every event, lives with him in the hotel room, monitors his curfew, and takes him to 12-step meetings. Those are just a few of the conditions of his son’s return to professional baseball — his last chance to redeem a decade of blown opportunities that made him perhaps the biggest disappointment in the history of the Major League Baseball draft.
The last time his son went missing from spring training was four years earlier. He’d been clean and sober for several months when his roommate let him borrow his car to go home. The house was only half a mile from the field. What could go wrong? Forty miles later, he was buying beer at a gas station for one final bender. Next he was at a liquor store, followed by a strip club. Finally back behind the wheel and blacked out, speeding toward the wreck that so many in his life had long anticipated and dreaded. His vehicle careened into a 72-year-old motorcyclist, knocking the man off his bike, driving over his head and leaving him in critical condition. A few miles later the police catch up with him and charge him with three felonies. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
When he was released from the Pen he took a job for $8 an hour at Golden Corral. He rode three miles from his halfway house to the Golden Corral on a donated bicycle, worked the morning shift in the bakery, ate at the buffet, pitched to a friend in the parking lot in the afternoon. That’s where a Ranger’s employee rediscovered him, with a department of corrections GPS tracking device locked to his ankle, throwing 95 mph fast balls.
Most of his time in prison he spent thinking of the opportunities he’d wasted and the mess he’d made of his life. In high school, he had a .450 batting average with 11 home runs and 35 runs batted in. He threw 94 mph fastball with a solid curveball. These stats rival major leaguers, not high schoolers. He was considered one of the best players ever to come out of high school. He was selected first overall in the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft. Signed by the Padres with a 3.15 million dollar signing bonus at 18 years old.
His professional career began with his suspension before he ever took the field, for his role in a fight outside an Arizona bar. After being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were well aware of his behavioral problems, he threw a baseball at a woman’s head at a local party. The Blue Jays released him the next day. It would take a year before he signed a contract with any team, and then only a minor league team. Two years in the minors and he was headed to prison.
After a brief panic, Danny finds his son on the field, with a wave and a huge sigh of relief, Danny thinks to himself, “He looks healthy and stable today.”
Spring 2017, after owning his alcoholism, seeking forgiveness from his victim, taking full responsibility for his action, choosing to give back to his community, committing to a clear plan for change, and repeatedly expressing his gratefulness, Matt Bush steps on the mound as the Texas Ranger's closer.
It doesn’t have to be over, just because it looks like it is.