toe-nash-1This Sunday, ESPN Outside the Lines ran a short segment on former Devil Rays prospect Gregory “Toe” Nash. If you haven’t seen it, here is the link. It’s short, only 6:30 minutes, and well worth your time.

I’ve mentioned Nash a few times on this site. The first time, I centered a whole post on his legend and how as fans we should be cautious of how attached we get to stories. We should never forget that baseball players are people, and they, like all people, have good things and bad things happen to them.

The second time I wrote about Nash was in my review of Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2%. Keri mentioned the Devil Rays passing of Albert Pujols for a safer more-recognizable pick and how that was typical of the Devil Rays mismanagement. He failed to mention, however, that the team went out on a limb a year later for a never-heard-of prospect in Nash.

So with some research into the Nash tale, here is my thought on the ESPN segment.

It was incomplete.

It was incomplete because the story is not finished.

Right now, Gregory Nash is living with his father in the backwoods of Louisiana. He is a recently released felon and sex offender. His future opportunity to be a productive member of society has been severely hampered by his past choices. Jeremy Schapp did not tell us if Nash received an education while incarcerated. We do know Nash was uneducated. The interview with Jonny Gomes made sure to mention Nash’s lack of societal skills.

Have his social skills improved at all? Or was ESPN just trying to beef up Nash’s inadequacy with Gomes’s recollections? Do we have to worry if Nash can turn on a light, order a pizza, or hold a job?

We have to remember ESPN is a Disney subsidiary. They love a good story. That’s why they say Toe Nash’s career “might not be over”. And it’s why they end with Nash hitting a home run in a Sugar Cane League game.

But here is the honest truth. As great as it is to see Nash still loves baseball, and still has the ability to hit the ball over the fence, albeit with an awkward swing, it means nothing in the bigger picture of life.

First of all, Nash is playing against similar has-beens or fellow never-will-be’s. They, like him, are not going to make the majors. Most of them play for the fun and the love of the game, having let go of dreams years ago. Toe Nash needs to let his baseball dreams go as well. His life does not move with baseball anymore.

Toe Nash is 32-years old. The game is no longer his future.

Baseball could be a solace for Nash. A place where he feels comfortable, even a place to bond with members of his community. Some of whom might be able to help him get on his feet for the first time.

Years before Toe Nash, there was Brien Taylor. Taylor was the number one pick in the 1991 draft. He was a “can’t miss” prospect for the New York Yankees. Scouts, agents, and front office folks still say they haven’t seen a high school pitcher as good. Like Nash, Taylor grew up poor. So poor, “advisor” Scott Boros warned the family that the Yankees might play on their lack of means and offer Taylor far less than his worth as a number one pick.

But Taylor was signed and pitched well in the low minors. During the 1993 offseason, however, home entanglements sent Taylor’s dream crashing to the ground. Involvement in a bar fight led to damage to Taylor’s prize left arm. After surgery, he was never close to the prospect he once was.

A news segment in the early 2000s caught up with Taylor, and like Nash, talked to him about his past, his mistakes, and his optimism in a life after baseball. The reporter states Taylor hoped “to go back to college and get his degree”. According to the report, Brien Taylor was moving on.

Although he fared well for a few years, employed as a UPS driver, a beer distributor, and other jobs, in 2012, Brien Taylor was arrested for cocaine trafficking. He has been in prison since and is due to be released later this year.

I wonder if Jeremy Schapp will be the first to interview Taylor upon his release.

The story of Toe Nash and Brien Taylor isn’t that they were or will be released, or even that they pick up a glove or a bat again. It’s in the hope that they become and remain productive members of society. The highway of redemption is littered with those who veered off course.

Toe Nash was a baseball player before he went to jail.

He can’t be that any more.

He can be a prosperous, productive member of society. Here’s hoping he has a support network that can help make that happen.

Even if ESPN isn’t around to tell us about it.

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5 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    wow,I was wondering about him, I remember the news about him being “discovered” back when I was in high school and the mystique.

  2. Gus says:

    Funny — for all the legend of the guy — he only hit .260 with 8 HRs in his one season in D-Ray rookie ball. Not exactly Babe Ruth.

    I’d prefer the Rays focus on guys who produce (obviously sign a flyer like Nash if you can, but focus on guys who are producing at all levels — like Kiermayer’s path to the bigs). Friedman had comments over the weekend where he basically admitted the org. screwed up by looking too much at upside and not enough on downside (see Sale, Josh). He also said that injuries were not the reason for the first half failure, which I also think is true and very honest to admit (Bedard has pitched better than Hellickson, and while the Moore and Cobb DL stints hurt, they just don’t score enough).

  3. Davis says:

    somewhere I still have a stack of Nash RCs lol.

    I wonder if Hamilton is really all that different from Nash and Taylor…except he got help

  4. Dave L says:

    I actually watched that program live Sunday morning. OTL has some pretty good stories. Overall it seemed like a pretty fair take. They did stress that Nash was never drafted, didn’t get out of Junior High and even the Rays thought he was the longest of long shots. They seemed to imply his only experience was in sandlot ball basically, then the Sugar cane league. The Gomes part was him recalling distant memories of Nash only, and mostly to over hype his raw skills and utter lack of worldliness.

    If he’s never even drafted and they sign him for $30k its not much of a limb to be out on. The Rays had zero risk and the bare minimum of investment. It also was noted that the Rays cut him lose when he was charged with statutory rape, he was on probation and with another MLB org I think the Reds when he violated probation and went away for a decade.

    The substitute host wasn’t as good as Bob Leah and tried several times to suggest to the Rays scout and other baseball guests that it was the scouts or the Rays ‘fault’ for not preventing a Nash from self destructing. Nobody took that bait.

    Part of the takeaway was that one big difference in the handling of a undrafted long shot versus a top pick like Hamilton is the teams investment shapes thier research and susequent attention to his personal and baseball development and its only common sense. They can’t babysit every kid in rookie ball in MiLB.

  5. AJNO says:

    good stuff, jordi. Elijah Dukes is on deck…

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