GENEVA – Dylan Busby admits there was a lot in life he wasn’t quite ready for.
“When you play baseball…you’re playing a kid’s game your whole life. But, there’s a lot of life lessons you can learn that’ll make you grow up. I’ve had to learn maybe more than others,” Busby, the Kane County Cougars third baseman, said before their season-opener against the Cleburne Railroaders on Friday.
“Some people might learn them on the field. Some people may learn them off the field.”
In the second year of his professional baseball career, Busby, the former 2017 third-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Florida State University, suffered four concussions in five months due to multiple separate instances of getting hit in the head with either a pitch at the plate or on a pickoff attempt to first.
“Who is to say where you’re going to learn them? As long as you learn them and then you’re better for it,” Busby said. “…It’s the other things that you don’t have: How to deal with stress. How to deal with when things aren’t going your way. At your work and you care so much about it. When you go home, you bring that stuff with you. How to separate it; at the field, at home and in your relationships.
“So much stuff that I never could imagine being an issue in my life until you deal with those things. You have a much greater appreciation for life. You have a much greater appreciation for baseball. You have a much greater appreciation for people.”
The Cougars defeated the Railroaders 20-6.
Chase Simpson hit a two-run home run off of Cougars starting pitcher Ryan Tapani (five innings, five hits, two earned runs, seven strikeouts) in the first inning, but the Cougars answered with nine runs in the third. Railroaders starter Kody Bullard lasted 2 1/3 innings, surrendering eight runs (six earned) and four strikeouts.
Cougars outfielder Nick Anderson added a solo shot in the fourth for the 10-2 Cougars lead and Sherman Johnson blasted a grand slam in the fifth to break the game wide open.
In 2019, Busby, a Sarasota, Fla. native, rebounded for 114 games in advanced-A ball with 22 home runs, 63 RBI and a .453 slugging percentage; but also struck out 158 times in 375 at-bats.
The 2020 minor-league season was canceled due to the pandemic and Busby played just 10 games across rookie league, AA and AAA in 2021 due to a nagging hamstring injury.
“…I dealt with a lot; stuff that I would never wish upon anybody. Four concussions in five months is just not something anyone wants to deal with,” Busby said, who was hit in the forehead area and in the eye, among other instances, just weeks apart during that season.
“It was tough to show up to work every day. It was tough to want to stand in the batter’s box,” Busby said. “It was tough to have the energy just to come out and [perform]…I was ornery a little bit, I was angry. I was confused. But, through that, I learned a lot.”
To Busby, it’s “more important the stuff I learned off the field than what I learned on the field over the past four or five years.”
Busby learned how to control emotions and how to overcome being uncomfortable “and [also] succeeding when you’re uncomfortable.”
“How to have a better mindset. How to be more confident as a person; as a player,” Busby said. “You learn so many things that you would never learn if you were healthy and everything was good and you weren’t playing sports…I would never have learned some of these lessons. I think it’s awesome.”
Cougars manager George Tsamis knew Busby’s power at the plate and “good third basemen are hard to find.”
“We were in need for a third baseman and Dylan was available,” Tsamis said. “There were other teams that were after him, but we had [infielder and former FSU standout] Sherman Johnson on our team. They’re buddies and Sherman talked to him a little about coming here and we ended up getting him. We like the guys we have…We feel we have some quality guys all over the field: A lot of them AA-AAA experience. We like where we’re at right now.”
The Cougars feature a number of returners from their inaugural AAPB roster and when they were once an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate. Nine are from last year’s roster alone, including Batavia native and pitcher Ben Allison.
“The goal for [Playing in Kane County] is to stay on the field; stay healthy,” Busby said. “Granted, I wish I could’ve stayed healthy, but I got to look at everything as a positive: some people could say it was a bad thing getting hurt three times in five seasons. I can’t look at it as bad. If I looked at it like that, I wouldn’t be playing right now.”
Busby likes to remember the question: ‘Do you think about me before you go to bed?’
“Because, if [someone] doesn’t think about me before bed, I shouldn’t care their opinions about me,” Busby said. “There’s thousands of people here. There’s thousands of people in the stands. There’s hundreds of coaches…that’s not a worry for me: fans in the stands, ever…solely because if they went through what I went through, they would never say [something overly negative or detracting].”
Busby, however, does enjoy some quality chirping and a few jokes from fans.
“I’ll laugh. I’ll let you know it was good, but there’s people that just don’t know,” Busby said. “You can’t blame them for that because there’s certain things you don’t learn by playing sports. You get humbled in sports. All eyes are on you.”