Former No. 1 overall draft pick Matt Bush agreed on a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers after spending 3 1/2 years in prison for a drunken driving accident in Florida that seriously injured a man.
Bush said Friday that he has been sober since the March 2012 accident after years of alcohol issues.
"It was a startling experience. ... It was pretty scary to deal with," Bush said during a conference call with Rangers beat writers. "I didn't really pay attention to the baseball world for a while because it was too hard for me."
Bush will report to minor league spring training in Arizona in February, the month he turns 30. He is home with his family in California, where he has been since his release from prison Oct. 30.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Bush will be accompanied throughout spring training by his father, who will also stay with him through the season if the hard-throwing right-handed reliever makes a minor league roster. Bush will continue in an Alcoholic Anonymous program and will have other requirements, including community service.
Daniels acknowledged that his initial response about Bush "was one of skepticism." The GM became more open-minded when hearing more, and getting a chance to meet Bush and his father.
"Unlike some who have been accused of different crimes, or have had stuff happen in the past, Matt is not running and hiding from this," Daniels said. "He has been extremely accountable, extremely remorseful."
Bush was drafted No. 1 overall as a shortstop by his hometown San Diego Padres in 2004, but had several alcohol-related incidents and was traded five years later to Toronto. After being released by the Blue Jays, he signed a minor league deal as a pitcher with Tampa Bay. He last played in the minors in 2011.
"I wake up each morning in a positive state of mind. I feel renewed after time I served and had to think things through, the agony about destroying my life and the lives of others."Matt Bush
The Rangers took a look at Bush on a recommendation from Roy Silver, a player development assistant for the team who has helped others come back from troubled pasts. Silver had a big impact on slugger Josh Hamilton, the former No. 1 overall pick who was out of baseball for more than three years because of cocaine and alcohol addictions.
"He saw something in Matt that made him feel like that there was something well worthwhile to invest in and help," Daniels said.
Bush went to prison after a no contest plea deal he made in Charlotte County in Florida for DUI with serious bodily injury. Authorities said Bush's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he hit a 72-year-old man on a motorcycle and left the scene.
There is no probation for Bush, whose sentence ended with a nine-month work release program.
"I feel like my future is as bright as I make it. I have to dial in each day mentally and spiritually, and physically," Bush said. "I wake up each morning in a positive state of mind. I feel renewed after time I served and had to think things through, the agony about destroying my life and the lives of others.
"I want to be a player, be a part of the game, be a role model and show everybody that I can make something out of the opportunity which I was given a long time ago, and really just make things right for myself, my family and the Texas Rangers."
Bush, selected just ahead of Justin Verlander in the 2004 draft, hit .219 with three homers and 70 RBIs in the minor leagues. As a pitcher, he was 7-3 with a 4.14 ERA in 53 appearances, with 113 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings.