Sunday , July 01, 2018 - 5:15 AM
WEST HAVEN — Almost every single pitch, Kyler Bush saw a throng of radar guns out of the corner of his eye.
They were held by Major League Baseball scouts who were dissecting everything about him, including every pitch the big Fremont High senior threw.
In a season where Bush was selected as the Standard-Examiner All-Area Baseball Most Valuable Player, he was a threat both on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate while making sure the outside noise of the impending MLB Draft didn’t weigh him down.
“For the most part, I felt like batting-wise I had a really good season and then pitching, I just had all the confidence in the world just knowing that I’m better than anyone I’m facing, that was kind of the mentality I had,” Bush said.
He pitched to a 5-2 record with a 2.51 ERA, amassing 57 strikeouts in 39 innings against just 19 walks. Bush batted .308 with team-highs in RBIs (22), doubles (6) and home runs (4).
To become the dominant starter in Region 1 play that Bush was, he first had to put a brutal non-region slate behind him.
Bush allowed six earned runs in two innings in a 14-5 loss to American Fork (he and his parents were happy that this was the only game the scouts didn’t watch), then allowed four earned runs in four innings in a 10-0 loss at Dixie.
After that he hit cruise control, all with scouts behind home plate for every pitch, recording him on camera, taking notes, testing Bush’s focus against things outside the playing field.
The outside noise became louder as the draft approached, not ceding to Fremont’s playoff chase, and Bush had to try harder to shut it out.
Would he be drafted? Where would he be drafted? How much money did he want in a signing bonus? Would that be enough to forgo a scholarship at Washington State? Would he get enough?
Bush says the scouts’ presence made him pitch better. One has to put on a show, he said.
“I had to perform well but they’re also there just to see how your body works, your mechanics and stuff, but you also have to have a good performance every time,” Bush said. “Consistency’s what they’re looking for.”
Once he got rolling, he had some of the region’s best hitters swinging too late at a low 90s fastball, or striking out with an off-balance whiff at a changeup.
There’s bitterness in Bush’s tone about the way the season ended. Fremont was one win away from qualifying for the state playoffs before the Silver Wolves lost to arch-rival Weber at home on the regular season’s final day.
It ended the season before he had a chance to potentially pitch in a playoff game, where a fourth-seeded Fremont would’ve been a tricky out.
“We weren’t expecting to win region, but we kind of expected to make state ... I think we were happy with how the sophomores stepped up in big situations and kind of did their thing,” Bush said.
As one of the few returning seniors this past season, Bush felt a responsibility to help mentor a lineup that featured numerous sophomores who will likely do most of the heavy lifting next year.
“I tried to give advice as much as possible because you could tell they were inexperienced, there’s situations they don’t really know what to do so I tried to coach them up,” he said.
“You could see them develop each game. Drake Grange is one of the biggest studs I’ve ever played with.”
In the end, Bush was drafted in the 40th round (No. 1,202 overall) by Kansas City, the team that scouted him the most throughout the evaluation process and that hosted him for a pre-draft workout at Kauffman Stadium.
In three years, he will be eligible for the draft once again as a junior coming out of Washington State and his hope is that he, his friends and family won’t have to wait until there are 13 picks left in the last round of the draft to hear his name.
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