They should not be a distraction but all of those tats are hard to miss on Matt Bush. Although he is only 5-foot-10, he’s a broad man whose stature looks a little more imposing because of the ink all over arms and chest.
Even when he wears a long sleeve shirt, the tats are visible just below his neck and down to his wrists. When he wears a normal short-sleeve shirt, the tat sleeves are more obvious.
“I got most of them ... locked up,” Bush said.
It was this time one year ago he was transitioning out of jail life. Now he finds himself as a central figure to the Rangers’ bullpen in their plans to win the World Series. He may not win any comeback player of the year award, but he’s a worthy candidate. His life was damn near over and now he is throwing 98 m.p.h. fastballs at hitters who can’t deal with his God-given stuff.
In 59 2/3 innings this season, Bush has a 2.56 ERA with 60 strikeouts.
While today he is all about baseball, he is literally covered in reminders of his days in prison. Unlike a body piercing, a weird hair cut or dyed ‘do, a tat is a permanent decision. He’s stuck with them, and he simply tries to make the best of it.
I asked him if he regretted any of the many tattoos that decorate his chest and arms.
“Oh yeah, but there’s no going back,” he said. “It’s who I am now. I do like them. I do. I just am saying I don’t know if it’s the wisest decision. It would be nice to see some pure skin and how God made me.”
He says he has no idea how many he has but safe to say it’s more than five and just a few less than a ton.
Bush began his love affair with ink shortly after he signed his first contract as the No. 1 draft pick of the San Diego Padres in 2004. It was around that time that tats had become increasingly popular, particularly among pro athletes.
“I might have been a little easily influenced back in the day when quite a few athletes have them and it being more acceptable,” Bush said.
Then he went to prison, and that’s when he kept going back to the ink well.
“For me it was not only being surrounded by it but it was a defiant thing at the time because of everything I went through,” he said. “Also, I I had some tattoos before and I was into them but couldn’t figure it out. It’s hard to think what you want all over your body, and I had a lot of time to think about it and see a lot of work when I was locked away. That’s when I ended up getting those.”
Despite the fact he says his chest area is the most sensitive, he still has plenty of tattoos there as well near his wrists, a region that normally is not too much fun to paint.
To hear him he’d rather not have quite so many, but he is resigned to the reality he can’t undo the decisions that put them there.
“When it came to thinking it over, I thought it won’t change too much and I’m still going to be who I am,” he said. “Because I have tattoos doesn’t mean I am going to live a certain way or be a certain type of person.”
They are, as he says, just a part of him.