Busby completes career with win in tournament

Published 11:55 am Friday, May 25, 2012

PEARL — As best he can remember, Michael Busby was 3 years old when he first picked up a baseball.

Thursday, at age 22, he played what might be his last organized baseball game in front of a few family members and friends, and a few hundred other assorted fans at Trustmark Park.

Busby allowed one run in six innings, gave up three hits and a walk, and had four strikeouts to help UAB rout Central Florida 15-1 in the Conference USA Tournament. It was a satisfying conclusion to a two-decade long baseball odyssey in which the Vicksburg native has gone from phenom to bust and back again.

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“It’s been a process. It’s been a long, long haul. It’s taught me a lot of things along the way. It’s definitely taught me patience,” Busby said with a soft chuckle. “Everything you get, you have to work for. Nothing is given to you. That’s a few lessons I’ve learned along the way through college ball. It’s not easy. If it were, everybody would do it.”

As a child, Busby emerged as the best player on his Culkin Critters tournament team. Stories of the 12-year-old baseball prodigy who blasted 80 mph fastballs past bewildered batters became the stuff of legend. He continued to shine in high school, winning the Vicksburg Post Player of the Year award twice and leading Porters Chapel Academy to the MAIS Class A championship in 2006.

His college career, however, was star-crossed. Arm trouble led to his departure from Mississippi State. He went to Hinds Community College and helped the Eagles win the MACJC state championship in 2010, but battled injuries again the next two seasons at UAB.

This year, it was a sports hernia that limited his time on the mound and kept him from playing first base or batting for much of the season.

“He just goes out there and guts it out,” UAB coach Brian Shoop said. “We had him on the mound today because he’s the heart and soul of our team. That’s who our guys would want to have on the mound in a big-game situation. Today was a Michael Busby day, and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of him.”

Shoop said he would consider starting Busby on Sunday if UAB reaches the C-USA Tournament championship game. He will not use Busby in the field or as a pinch-hitter because of his injury. Busby did, however, play first base in the seventh inning Thursday as the Blazers earned their run-rule victory. He caught the final out on a grounder to short.

UAB will not qualify for the NCAA Tournament unless it wins the league tournament. Busby also said few pro teams have shown interest in him, and he doesn’t expect to see his name selected in next month’s major league draft.

Given all that, the very real chance he was pitching his last game was not lost on the senior right-hander. Busby said doing it in Mississippi, near his hometown, made it an experience he’ll remember.

“It’s really cool that everybody got a chance to come and see the game. They don’t always get a chance to come to Birmingham. Last night I went out to eat with the family. It felt like back home. It’s a good feeling, especially to get a win like this,” Busby said.

Busby’s future after baseball looks bright. He had a 4.0 GPA last semester and is on track to graduate with a degree in exercise science this summer. He’s hoping to go to physical therapy school after that.

After 19 springs and summers on the baseball diamond, Busby said he’s ready to move on to the next chapter in his life.

“Unless something comes up, this is it,” Busby said. “It was a fun ride, but everything comes to an end. I feel like I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve done my job and I have nothing else to give. I’m at peace with it, very much so.”