Hot bat in summer season lifts Bush from baseball doldrums


There was a time this spring when Bobby Bush doubted if he could play college baseball this fall.

In fact, he doubted if he could play the game in high school despite being a three-year starter at Mount Saint Joseph High in Baltimore.

What had happened to a promising baseball career?

Bush, a 5-foot-11 and 180-pound outfielder from Linthicum, had two brilliant seasons with the Gaels, and it figured that he entered his senior year with anxious optimism. A season of great expectations turned into disappointment for the talented 18-year-old athlete.

No matter what he tried, he felt the frustrations Cal Ripken Jr. has felt and that was not being able to buy a hit.

Determined not to let it get the best of him, Bush pursued his summer season with a new outlook and a new stance.

It's resulted in a .400 batting average and his leading the Liberty Road team of Baltimore County into the National Amateur Baseball Federation 18-and-under World Series this weekend in Youngstown, Ohio.

Last weekend, Bush took MVP honors in Altoona, Pa., as Liberty Road (40-8) won the NABF East Regional in three straight games. The left-handed-hitting Bush batted .712 in the fTC tournament, including a 3-for-3 effort with two home runs, a double and five RBI in the 10-3 title romp over host Tyrone Legion of Altoona.

Liberty Road won the first game, 2-1, over Calvert County and ripped Annapolis American Legion, 14-2, before taking on Tyrone Legion. Bush, who played 16-and-under baseball for Bill Nevin and the Glen Burnie Patriots, has played the last two summers with Liberty Road.

Fellow Mount St. Joe outfielder Jeff Mengele of Glen Burnie has played both years as well, and this year left-handed pitcher Tim Trotta of Millersville, who will be a senior this fall at St. Joe, joined them at Liberty Road.

"We played well and won it. It's been a great summer for me personally after what happened this spring," said Bush.

Bush earned seven varsity letters in his four-year athletic career at St. Joe, three each in baseball and football and one in basketball. He was projected as a preseason All-Metro caliber player for the Gaels in baseball, but things never fell into place.

After batting about .350 as a junior and leading the Gaels to an overall mark of 20-5, Bush slumped to .305 this spring and the team went down with him. St. Joe went 14-6 overall and was upset by Archbishop Spalding (11-12) in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference playoffs.

"Bobby had a couple nagging injuries and never got untracked," said St. Joe coach and Pasadena resident, Dave Norton.

Bush says it was more of a mental thing than a physical problem.

"I tried to do too much," said Bush. "I tried to carry the team, tried to do things I wasn't capable of doing, and yes, it got to the point that I wondered if I could play in college."

Coach John Jancuska never doubted that Bush could and opened the door for him to attend UMBC this fall. Under Jancuska, the UMBC Retrievers' baseball program has become one of the very best in the East.

This past season, UMBC held its own against perennial College World Series contender Miami before bowing in National Collegiate Athletic Association regional play to the Hurricanes. Miami was one of the final four teams in this year's College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

"UMBC has a great reputation, and Coach Jancuska made me feel very comfortable," said Bush, who considered the University of Maryland at College Park and North Carolina at Greensboro.

UMBC might be getting an outstanding player if this summer is any indication. With a couple of minor adjustments and tips from Charlie Bree, an ex-University of Maryland assistant coach, Bush appears to have gotten himself back into the groove.

"I've straightened out my stance a bit and kept one stance with my hands and bat back, and it has really helped me have more bat speed," said Bush.

"Charlie Bree told me I was wrapping my bat back too far, and with the change, I'm quicker and have more power."

Bree once wore a Baltimore Orioles' uniform, helping in pregame batting practice and running the radar gun behind home plate when the game began for skipper Earl Weaver. He played the game at Maryland and has done a lot of coaching, with his latest endeavor being chief coordinator for the Tippy Martinez Baseball School.

Bush worked as an instructor in the Martinez camp this summer at Brooklyn Park with the 8- to 10-year-olds and loved it.

"I'm going to do it again next season, and it helped me, too," said Bush, who enjoyed working with the youngsters.

It was through the Martinez camp that he met Bree and started working with him. Obviously, Bree's suggestions have helped, and Bush is excited again about baseball.

Bush's turnaround was not all physical, and he attributes regaining his confidence to his granddad, Joe "Doc" Bartlinski.

Bartlinski, best known as a football coach for his days with the Baltimore Eagles semipro team and in recent years as the man who started the Archbishop Spalding football program, has spent a lifetime helping kids.

"My granddad taught me how to play baseball when I was a kid," said Bush. "He's always been there for me, and when things were starting to get to me this spring and I was doubting myself, my granddad helped me get my confidence back.

"He kept telling me to keep swinging and that I would come out of it and I did. He said a lot of things I needed to hear."

Bartlinski is a well-known chiropractor who knows how to handle sports injuries and has helped scores of athletes for more than 30 years in the Brooklyn, Linthicum and Glen Burnie areas. His son, Joe, has gotten into the same line of work, so it's no surprise that his grandson may do likewise.

"I'm going to major in physical therapy at UMBC because my granddad has most of the family into it and I've always enjoyed the sciences in school," said Bush, who carried a 2.8 GPA at the Mount.

Bush has no regrets about attending Mount St. Joe while a lot of the kids he grew up with attended county high schools. His only regret is not having a better baseball season his senior year.

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