When a person wins an American Legion State Championship and goes on to great success at not only the collegiate level, but in personal life, those accomplishments truly speak volumes about that person’s character.
However, when that person realizes what the true meaning of sports is all about in the process of accomplishing all of those things, that shows how special sports can truly be.
With that statement in mind, it’s not a surprise to see former New Boston native and 1974 New Boston Glenwood High School graduate Dave Bush going on to great success in his own life. That was proven when the former pitching standout was inducted into the William Carey University Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year.
For Bush, the accomplishment of being inducted into the hall of fame at the Hattiesburg, Miss.-based school, along with success in the banking profession, are things that couldn’t have been obtained without the life lessons that baseball taught him.
“Anytime that you’re on a team, you’re going to get people with different personalities. In fact, I view people as snowflakes: they’re all different,” Bush said. “When you can learn different personality types, you don’t realize that that’s preparing you for your working life as it is, but after having gone into the banking business for 39 years, I can certainly say that (my experiences with being on baseball teams) helped me understand the different kinds of people and what’s important to them. What’s important to them may not necessarily be important to somebody else, but understanding and getting along with other people can change your life.”
After collecting a blistering ERA of 0.60 during his senior season of high school baseball with the Tigers, Bush accepted a full-ride scholarship to play at Miami University — and obtained the chance to play on one of the greatest teams Scioto County ever saw in any sport in the Bill Newman-led 1974 Portsmouth 23 American Legion baseball squad — a group that got its inspiration from the Al Oliver’s, the Larry Hisle’s, the Don Gullett’s, and the Gene Tenace’s of the baseball world.
“When we were growing up, most of those guys were five to seven years older than us,” Bush said. “We saw them coming out of high schools or colleges and going to the major leagues, and we aspired to do the same things that they did. At the same time, you had one of the best teams playing in Major League Baseball history in the Big Red Machine. We just felt that was the way that baseball ought to be played.”
With that thought in the back of Bush’s head, along with his teammates, Post 23 went on to win all five of its contests in the state tournament, with Bush collecting two decisions of his own from the mound while saving another — all amazing accomplishments considering that Post 23 was usually outmanned by its competition as far as numbers were concerned.
“We won five games,” Bush said. “I won two of them, and saved another. We had 13 guys on our roster, when most everybody else that we played against had between 15 to 18 players on their rosters. But we had tremendous solidarity.”
The game of baseball, however, can take funny bounces and turns sometimes.
As Bush arrived and tried to get accustomed to the surroundings at Miami, Bush learned that his philosophical differences with the coaching staff were too much to overcome.
So Bush, who had learned about former Major League Baseball hand John Stephenson through relatives of his, including Bobby Kouns — a well-respected baseball umpire in Northeastern Kentucky — decided to transfer to William Carey, where the Scioto County native — after overcoming mononucleosis that cut his sophomore season short — led the Crusaders to a 53-11 record in 1978 and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) World Series with some of the same teammates that had helped Post 23 take home that storied state championship crown four years earlier.
“I didn’t know John, but I knew most of his relatives, including Bobby Kouns, who served as a well-respected umpire in high school and American Legion sports,” Bush said. “When (John) Stephenson learned that I was unhappy at Miami, where I had originally went, he called me during Christmas Break in 1974 and asked me to come to Hattiesburg to play for him. There were several players from Portsmouth who were already there, and most of those guys were members of our 1974 American Legion State Championship team.”
And, like Post 23, it was a unit that was chalk-full of talent.
“I think that we had six guys drafted off of the 1978 team that played professionally,” Bush said. “It was quite an experience.”
Bush, too, had an opportunity to make a professional roster. Not long after his college career came to a conclusion, the New Boston native got the ultimate opportunity when Bush participated in a tryout for the Detroit Tigers in 1978.
“Jim Leyland worked me out for an hour,” Bush said. “He told me that I had the best curveball of any rookie pitcher that he had, but that I just didn’t throw hard enough. So that was when I got into banking. I’ve been involved with it ever since.”
That, as it turns out, hasn’t been a bad No. 2 option, to say the least.
For 39 years, Bush has worked his way up the ladder of the banking industry. He’s now the Executive Vice President and Manager of The First Private Bank, a division of The First — A National Banking Association headquartered in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with a footprint that includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
And the lessons that he learned from the teams that he was on — including that great Post 23 team that is still remembered by so many to this very day — is a big reason way.
“I still have a five-by-seven color team photograph of that 1974 Post 23 team, which was taken in Ashland, Ohio when we played in the state tournament,” Bush said. “It’s color, it’s framed, and it’s been sitting on my mantle since I’ve had a house, which has been since 1985. That sums up how I feel about that team. Mike Stapleton and I either talk or text pretty much every day. That was a special bunch of guys. We loved each other, we respected each other, and again, we had tremendous solidarity. There wasn’t anybody out there, from a team perspective, that we thought could beat us. We believed that we could beat anybody.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7
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