Throwback Thursday: Recalling the Only Overall No. 1 Pick to Play for Fort Wayne

Here’s a Friday version of Throwback Thursday. So if you’re really into alliteration, feel free to call it Flashback Friday…

With the NFL Draft dominating the headlines of the sports world the last week, it got us thinking about top draft picks who’ve played in Fort Wayne.  (By the way, the 2013 MLB Draft is just around the corner June 6-8. The Padres have pick No. 13.)

Of course, this year’s TinCaps team has four first-round or supplemental first-round picks on it in pitchers Joe Ross, Max Fried, Zach Eflin, and Walker Weickel. In case you missed it, here’s our feature on them. But who was the last No. 1 overall pick to play for Fort Wayne?

The last was also the first — the only one — in the franchise’s 21-year history: Matt Bush.

The Padres selected Matt Bush with the first pick of the 2004 MLB Draft.

A San Diego native drafted by his hometown team No. 1 overall? If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it was.

In December 2012, Bush, at the age of 27, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for a drunken-driving hit-and-run crash.

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan chronicled the long, maddening fall for former No. 1 Matt Bush last March. It’s a sad, but well-told story.

We won’t delved into Bush’s full saga here, but we turned to our veteran broadcast partner Mike Maahs for his memories of Bush as a player from his limited time in Fort Wayne. After spending the rookie year of his professional baseball career in the Arizona League and Eugene, Bush arrived to Fort Wayne for the first time in 2005. In 126 games, Bush hit .221 with 2 HR and 32 RBI.

Bush was back in 2006 for 21 games when he hit .268 with 0 HR and 7 RBI. He returned again in 2007. This time, however, Bush had been converted to pitcher. Sadly though, in the first inning of his Fort Wayne pitching debut, Bush snapped the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. That was the last time Bush wore a Fort Wayne uniform.

Here’s what Mike remembers of Bush’s years in the Summit City:

“He had a howitzer for an arm. But it became apparent very quickly that it was going to be all arm and no bat. The thing that stood out is the fact that he was bombarded in the first half of the season in 2005. Everyone wanted to talk to him. He basically had no time to himself.

He may not have played for the Wizards in 2006, but on the last day of Spring Training, he was with Lake Elsinore, going for a foul popup and somehow he smacked his ankle against the base of the wall and broke his ankle. That’s why he came back to Fort Wayne in the second half of the season.

It was the best slider I had ever seen, in Burlington, IA, Community Field — second game of a double-header. It was the eighth pitch he had thrown in the at-bat. The pitch itself was just crazy. As he released the ball he quickly threw down his glove before the ball even reached the batter and clutched his right arm at the elbow and walked at a 90-degree angle toward the first-base dugout.”

Bush certainly isn’t the first No. 1 pick in baseball to ever fall short of expectations, but hopefully future prospects can learn from the mistakes he made away from the game.

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