Toe Nash’s Unfinished Story

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This 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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