When the news broke about some of the circumstances behind Tyler Skaggs‘ death and that an Angels employee was his opioid supplier I got sick to my stomach.
Reading the ESPN Outside the Lines report about Tyler Skaggs and his opioid addiction was like a series of body blows mixed in with a few uppercuts to the face. In this season of sorrow and disappointment.
It started with the Southlake Police Department finding the lifeless body of Tyler Skaggs in his hotel room on July 1st, 2019. It was painful to see the faces of the players and then-Angel manager Brad Ausmus and members of the Angels front office, public relations staff looking like they had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.
Seeing all the raw emotion from the players before, during, and after the first game back on July 3rd was also very tough. Then the emotional, yet cathartic night in Anaheim on July 12th with the team honoring Skaggs and his family during a pre-game ceremony. When the game started they played their butts off on the field while wearing his number 45 jersey and getting an emotional 13-0 combined no-hitter over Seattle. A few days later was a very special memorial service for Skaggs in Santa Monica.
All of this while heart-breaking seem to provide some closure for most, until the morning of August 30th when the autopsy report was made public. This is the day when the proverbial “poop started hitting the fan”. We learned that Skaggs’ death was due to a mixture of oxycodone, alcohol, and fentanyl that caused the pitcher to pass out and while he was passed out he vomited and choked on it (also known as aspiration). In the report the Southlake Police Department said that an Angels employee may have been involved in Skaggs’ death and that an attorney had been hired by his family to investigate further.
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Most people sort of glossed over the fact that someone on the Angels staff could have been involved in the death. Some people might have thought it was someone not very high up in the organization that could have been a supplier to Skaggs, but never in our wildest dreams would we have believed or wanted to believe it was someone in the front office of the team like Eric Kay. Kay, who is a very well respected member of the public relations department since 1996 who ascended to the role of Director of Communications with Angels a few years back.
According to multiple reports Kay, who was known as former Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead, protégée, said he had told Mead about Skaggs opioid abuse. Mead categorically denied this notion. Mead who just left the Angels in June of this year to assume the role of Baseball Hall of Fame President, was someone Kay had considered like a father-figure after his father passed away in 1998. Mead was visiting Kay in the drug treatment unit in April of 2019 after Kay had overdosed on opioids. The report said Skaggs texted Kay, while Mead was visiting, asking him for more oxycodone and he said he told Mead again about Skaggs’ opioid abuse.
Kay has been talking to investigators with the DEA about Skaggs’ death and the events that led up to that day. Kay went on to say that there were at least five other former/current Angel players that also were/are using opioids. The situation has gone from bad to worse now with this new information and it unfortunately will only get worse before it gets better.
The DEA has recently questioned some Angels players from this season in Noe Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Heaney, and Matt Harvey have all been interviewed this week about Skaggs death. They are not being said to be the “five players with opioid issues” that Kay mentioned in his statement to the DEA.
Overall, it seems like information is trickling out a little at a time rather than all at once. The metaphor of slowly taking off a band-aid rather than just ripping it off fits here. If you do it all at once it will hurt a lot for a bit, but then the pain subsides. If you take it off a little bit of at a time it delays the full pain and drags things out. In this case I would rather all the cards be laid out now if the information is available.
I don’t necessarily want to know who the five Angel players that used/are using opioids. While I am curious, I would rather they get the help they need to hopefully recover from the addiction. However, I do want to know who supplied Skaggs with the fentanyl as that is more serious than the oxycodone issue. I do want to know If there is anyone else in the Angels organization that was connected with a potential cover-up of the situation. I am really hoping it was only Kay acting alone with no one else having knowledge, but I would be naive in thinking this is the case.
One hope for me personally is that Tim Mead did not actually know anything about Skaggs’ opioid issues. He is so well-respected and is now in baseball’s holiest of holies place the Hall of Fame. Mead was always such a class act in my dealings with him and you heard this same story throughout baseball when you mention his name to pretty much anyone.
But my greatest wish is that things get resolved sooner rather later so Tyler’s family and the Angels can move on with their lives without this tumultuous situation hanging over their heads. This has definitely been one of the darkest times in Angels baseball history and I want it to end as soon as possible. I also hope those Angels that Kay mentioned are on the road to recovery from their opioid addictions if they have one.
I also hope that Eric Kay gets the help he needs to get through his opioid addiction for the sake of not only himself, but his wife and kids. I don’t think he should keep his job with the Angels, but I hope he can find happiness in some way. After all of this is over I hope that all involved can rise above this tragedy.
For now we must all play that waiting game which is probably the worst thing you have to do in life. No amount of money, no apologies will ever bring Tyler Skaggs back to his wife Carli, and his mother Debbie as well as the rest of Skaggs’ family and friends. Our prayers will continue to be lifted up for comfort for the Skaggs family and his friends and teammates now and forever.