University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

Baseball in the Books

Alumnus Scott Bush helms the Society for American Baseball Research.

Photo courtesy Scott Bush

It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

While Scott Bush was a student at the U of M in 2004, Mike Veeck, legendary owner of the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team, came to speak in one of his classes. Bush listened as Veeck gave the class his email and invited anyone who wanted a job or internship to contact him. Veeck promised to reply.

“I thought it would be stupid not to take him up on the offer,” says Bush (B.S. ’05). That summer, Bush would intern with the club. It was the start of a career in baseball that culminated in Bush taking the job as CEO of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in 2018, a research organization based in Phoenix that works to spread the history of the game.

Bush says those early days of working at the Saints were like nothing he had ever experienced. “I hadn’t been exposed to them prior to that; it was real eye-opening,” Bush says. “There appeared to be no rules, [and] it made it such a joy every day. Everybody had the freedom to express themselves with new ideas.”

The St. Paul Saints are notable for a variety of crowd-pleasing antics, including having a trained pig deliver balls to the pitcher, offering seat-side massages to fans, and creating corny but cute 7th inning stretch diversions that have included both food and pillow fights. One idea Bush had that summer in the same vein came from the story of the Seattle Mariners fans who were asked to leave a game for wearing shirts that said, “Yankees Suck.” Since the Saints were holding an “Evil Empire” night, “we sold shirts that said ‘Sankees Yuck,’” Bush says.

After his start with the Saints, Bush later worked in California for the Fresno Grizzlies for a few years, then with the Stockton Ports for a season before returning to the Saints. When Bush learned the SABR leadership position was open, he applied, believing it was “a great opportunity to challenge myself in a new way, [and] apply what I learned from minor league baseball.”

Founded in 1971 by a group of baseball writers and fans who were interested in both statistics and baseball history, SABR is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. At their initial organizing meeting at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the 16-member founding group decided SABR’s mission would be to foster the study of baseball as a significant American social and athletic institution, and to accurately record baseball history and research.

Today SABR produces three journals, has a book publishing division, and fields 33 committees that conduct research on everything from the Negro Leagues to 19th century baseball, as well as statistical analysis, women in baseball, baseball in the arts, and more. Since becoming CEO, Bush has helped grow membership— which includes individuals interested in baseball research and professional baseball players or executives—by more than 20 percent to about 6,800.

Bush grew up on a farm in Russell, Minnesota, and says wanting a “bigger” collegiate environment is what led him to the U of M. “I have always been a huge sports fan, so I wanted the ‘Big School’ experience of attending major college sporting events,” he says. “I [initially] wanted to become a mechanical engineer and the [U of M’s program was] highly regarded across the country, so I felt like it was the perfect fit.”

While the engineering dream was ultimately not to be, Bush’s interest in sports became more focused during college. He transitioned programs and colleges within the University and graduated with a sport management degree from the College of Education and Human Development and a management minor from the Carlson School. He was able to accomplish this in part, he says, because of Jo Ann Buysse, then a senior lecturer in the Kinesiology department and now a professor emerita.

Buysse was influential in a number of ways, Bush says. “First, she was willing to admit me to the program, despite the fact that I’d missed the application deadline by weeks. But more importantly, she made me question my own views on equality in sports and society. Her ability to use sports—women’s sports in particular—to showcase how power structures are maintained was a powerful lesson to learn at that age.

“The University of Minnesota provided a terrific infrastructure to start building my own professional network,” Bush adds. “Specifically, it led directly to my first jobs in baseball, which put me on the path that I’ve been so fortunate to follow. Without those entry-level opportunities, I may not have found the immediate footing you need in an industry with no shortage of people to enter the workforce.”

Jon Caroulis is a freelance writer from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and a columnist for the website

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