For as many certainties as there were surrounding the Tyler Skaggs tragedy – the morbid role Angels employee Eric Kay played in Skaggs’ death, the unrewarding closure Kay’s guilty verdict gave the Skaggs family – the uncertainties are just as numerous, and perhaps even more troubling than what we know.

How prevalent is opioid abuse in professional baseball – from the Major Leagues down to Low A? How unforgiving is this game on those who play it?

How many more will suffer a similar fate as Tyler Skaggs?

“Unfortunately, I think you’re going to be seeing it more and more…What this comes back to is not the misuse of the drugs. It’s the mental-health status of these players. They’re self medicating because they can’t handle the life stresses, the stresses of performance, the stresses of the world,” the athletic trainer for a MLB club told the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal anonymously.

So it’s not just me. It’s not just one young adult, who cracked under the mental pressure of high school and college baseball, to wonder just how stressful playing professional baseball must really be.

And to just what ends any man would be justified to go to relieve that stress.

The word epidemic is so often found after opioid, because the disease spares no one. It doesn’t matter if you were the valedictorian or the high school dropout, the star athlete or the team mom – the drugs pull is the same.

That’s why it makes sense, too much sense really, that the drug would have that same pull in Major League Baseball. The hardest professional sport to be successful in.

In 150 years of Major League Baseball, there have only been 20,000 to have reached the big leagues. Only 10% of that group have stayed at the top for 10 years or more. In fact, only 1/3rd of those drafted in the first round of the amateur draft reach the big leagues. Even fewer have staying power.

Baseball is a sport so uniquely unforgiving, so dependent on the continued effort of men who face failure over and over again, that no other entertainment venue comes close to comparing. The underbelly of the minor and independent leagues is vast and dark – players fail to earn a living wage and oftentimes passed on a college education for a shot at fulfilling their dream.

Alas, the game is never going to be made any easier. That’s part of why it’s so great. But what it must do, in order to prevent so many of its loyal worshippers from suffering the fate of Tyler Skaggs, is make the fall from the top not so steep.

 

 

 

Featured Image: USA Today

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