Good or bad at baseball? Bush knows now

March 13th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Homer Bush Jr. calls the past few years of his baseball experience "a whirlwind." And, really, how else could he describe it?

The Padres' No. 14 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings was drafted last summer and ascended as high as Double-A in his first professional season. This Friday, the outfielder is slated to star in the team's Spring Breakout game against the Mariners -- a showcase of the top prospects in each organization.

Crazy, Bush says, because less than three years ago, he was left wondering, "I don't even know if I'm good or bad at baseball. I haven't even played, really."

Bush didn't play much in high school. He broke a finger just before his sophomore season and didn't make the varsity team. His senior season was canceled due to COVID. In between, he was typecast as a pinch-runner and didn't get the at-bats he was craving.

Bush played sporadically in high school and hardly played at all during his freshman season at Grand Canyon University. It wasn't until that summer that he got to play the sport he loves on a daily basis.

And he raked. In 42 games for Greenville in the Appalachian League -- a collegiate summer league -- Bush batted .316 and swiped 21 bases. He had the answer he was looking for: He’s good at baseball.

"That was a chance to show up to the field and know I'm going to be in the lineup and know that I can fail, and deal with the failures and have my own successes," Bush said of his time in the Appalachian League. "You see what it's like to go through hot streaks and cold streaks. That was huge for me.

"That was my first taste of success. That let me know, like, 'OK, I can kind of do this thing.' I have a little bit of a future in this. That was the first time in my career where I was like, 'OK, maybe I'm not crazy, I can do this.'"

Bush’s career has been on an upward trajectory ever since. After a solid sophomore year, followed by a summer in the Cape Cod League, Bush began skyrocketing Draft boards with his breakout junior season at Grand Canyon.

In July, 32 years after the Padres drafted his father, they selected Bush in the fourth round and then signed him to a bonus just north of $500,000.

"When I played my first game at the complex -- you're wearing the Padres colors, the Padres jerseys, the real thing -- that was probably the most nervous I've been," Bush said. "I was like, 'Holy crap, you're actually wearing the brown and gold.'

“Then, as you progress, you start to build more confidence. I would've never thought I would've been up in Double-A in my first year -- and to go there and have some success -- it was super cool."

After tearing up the Rookie-level Complex League to the tune of a 1.123 OPS, Bush moved to Single-A Lake Elsinore, then Double-A San Antonio. With the Missions in the midst of a playoff run, he played in eight games and batted .429. In three postseason games, he went 4-for-9 with a ... wait for it ... homer.

Now Bush is slated to start Friday when a loaded team of Padres prospects takes on the Mariners. First pitch is slated for 1:10 p.m. PT and the game will be televised on MLB Network and Padres.TV.

“You want to be playing on MLB Network at Petco wearing the brown and gold,” Bush said. “So this is kind of getting a taste of that early on in your career. It's super awesome, and I think it's going to be a super cool opportunity.”

It’s also a chance for the Padres to show off their revamped farm system -- a system Bush has learned up close at multiple levels over the past nine months.

“I'm obviously biased, being a part of this system,” Bush says. “It's all I know. But I think it's a truly unbelievable, special group of guys. ... When we get the opportunity to show it off -- if it's just one game on Friday or over the course of a full season -- I think it's going to be really impressive.”