SportsPulse: This baseball season will be a downright sprint and certifiably crazy. Mackenzie Salmon breaks down everything you need to know about the 2020 season with numbers.
It was a disturbing picture, a police mug shot, spattered across the internet last weekend, revealing a troubled man with a vacant, soulless look.
He looked disheveled, with hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed in weeks, if not months. His thick beard was scraggly, covering most of his face, flowing right into his hair.
The article accompanying the picture was a homeless man found asleep behind the Federal Express building located at the Key West International Airport in Florida. He had only a black book bag in his possession. The police report listed his address simply as “the streets of Key West.’’
The name of the arrested man: Andrew Toles.
Yes, the same man who just two years ago was the popular starting outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“When the news came out, the response from the public was very different from the response from my family,’’ Morgan Toles, Andrew’s sister, told USA TODAY Sports. “When people saw my brother’s mug shot, it was like, ‘Oh, my God! He’s been arrested.’
“You know what my family felt? Relief.
“It’s really crazy to say, but the mug shot, really, was the best thing ever.
“We didn’t know whether he was dead or alive.’’
Morgan Toles, an assistant women’s basketball coach at Kent State, paused, her voice cracking, trying to gather her thoughts on describing the utter helpless feeling her entire family has been enduring the past 1 ½ years.
‘You cry every day, you pray every day’
Andrew Toles has been in at least 20 mental health facilities since 2019, his sister says, but he never stays long enough to get the help he needs. He usually stays a week, and then vanishes, moving onto the next city.
The family was hoping with the latest arrest he would be kept in jail, perhaps as long as six weeks, providing enough time to get help. The family seeks legal guardianship, but are powerless to obtain it without his consent. Instead, an anonymous person posted the $500 bail, believing they were helping, but let him loose on the streets again.
“This has been going on for the last year and a half,’’ Morgan said, “it’s just that this is the first time it has become public.’’
Just two weeks ago, a similar incident occurred in Kentucky. Toles even spent a month in prison in Hong Kong during the holidays. He was wandering the streets after losing his passport, and was arrested for stealing food at a gas station. He was released after Morgan Toles obtained help from the U.S. Embassy. Yet, when he returned to states, he disappeared again.
“The last time I saw my brother, I don’t even know,’’ Morgan says. “I haven’t heard his voice in, Lord knows how long. The only difference in my brother and the homeless walking the streets in LA is that he made money. That’s it. We want to help him so badly. We are doing everything we can.
“But the loved ones are the ones he runs from.
“How do you help somebody that doesn’t want to be helped?”
In the case of Alvin Andrew Toles, the real question is:
How do you help someone who doesn’t realize they need help?
“You cry every day, you pray every day,’’ says Alvin Toles, Andrew’s father, a former linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. “It’s a relief that you know he’s alive. And now there’s no need to hide anything. Everyone now knows he has a mental illness.
“Maybe this is how God meant for this to end. Now people know. People are reaching out and asking how to help.
“We just need to find him. We need to bring him home. But he keeps running. He’s in this state of paranoia. He’s running from people. He just keeps running like someone is after him.
“He really needs help before it’s too late.’’
Toles, 28, symbolized one of baseball’s finest Cinderella stories when he was called up to the Dodgers in 2016. He was drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, and became their minor-league player of the year. He later began behaving erratically, even threatening people, and was released in 2015.
He went home to Atlanta, kept working out, watching hitting videos, but was completely out of organized baseball. His only income was working the morning shift at the frozen foods section at the Kroger grocery store in the Kedron Village Shopping Center in Peachtree City, Georgia. The job paid $7.50 an hour.
He returned to baseball when Gabe Kapler, the Dodgers’ director of player development at the time, emailed Toles to see if he was interested in returning to baseball and participating in the Dodgers’ instructional league. Toles didn’t hesitate.
ZIMMERMAN OPTS OUT: ‘Best decision for me and my family’
“We knew Andrew experienced some personal challenges with the Rays when we signed him,’’ said Kapler, now manager of the San Francisco Giants. “We thought we could create a different environment that might allow him to thrive at the minor league level. There were a lot of people who cared for him and invested in him.”
Toles immediately showed his dynamic skills of speed, defense and hitting for contact. He made his major-league debut on July 8, doubled in his first at-bat, and hit .314 in 48 games the rest of the season. He started in eight of the Dodgers’ 11 postseason games, hitting .364 in 26 plate appearances.
He was going to be their primary left fielder in 2017, but it ended in May when he crashed into the wall at Dodger Stadium, suffering a torn ACL, trying to protect Julio Urias’ no-hitter. He spent most of the 2018 season still recovering from his knee surgery, spending all but 17 games in the minors.
The Dodgers traded outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig that winter, leaving a possible starting job for Toles. He stayed in Los Angeles working out at Dodger Stadium after the 2018 season. He left for a trip, told them he’d back in a few days, and never returned. The Dodgers kept calling. There was never an answer. Toles’ family placed him in a mental health facility in mid-January. The stint lasted less than two weeks, and he was gone again.
The family secret
The next time the Dodgers knew about his whereabouts was when they received a call from the Phoenix police in early February. He crashed his car and was walking along a desert highway disoriented, and dangerously dehydrated, unaware of his whereabouts. He was admitted to a Phoenix area hospital, and Toles’ mother, Vicky, contacted the Dodgers, seeking help.
“He recognized me in the hospital from our time together in Tampa,’’ said Dodgers medical director Ron Porterfield, who had spent 21 years with the Rays. “He said my name, but he didn’t even know how he got from LA to Phoenix. He asked me to take him home. I said, ‘Where are we going?’ He said, ‘To my apartment.’ But he didn’t know where his apartment was.”
Toles spent two weeks in the hospital, with Porterfield finally being granted permission to access his medical records. Toles was mandated by the court to a county facility, and later transferred to a behavioral health treatment center until mid-April. It was the longest stint he had ever spent in the hospital.
He was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The Dodgers and the Toles’ family kept his illness and whereabouts a secret to the outside world. The Dodgers told reporters he was absent from the team because of “personal reasons.’’ The family told friends that Toles was simply working out and rehabbing from his knee injury.
Porterfield, with Toles’ agent Larry Reynolds often accompanying him, visited Toles four to five days a week during his hospitalization and treatments. Porterfield called Toles’ mother every single night for the first six weeks. When Toles left the facility in May, the Dodgers arranged for him to stay in a Phoenix-area hotel. Porterfield would pick him up at 9 a.m. each morning, take him to therapists, and pick him up again at noon for workouts. They would grocery shop together. Go to church together. Anything to help get Toles’ life back together.
“But things gradually deteriorated,’’ Porterfield said. “I don’t know if he stopped taking his medication, they weren’t working, or what went wrong.
“The whole thing was getting him in the right mind to cooperate, and that was completely difficult. An adult should be able to make decisions for themselves, and he was incapable of doing that.’’
On the run
Toles was ready to leave Arizona, and the Dodgers. Even his family couldn’t stop him. His father and uncle, Johnny Jones, a Memphis police officer, drove to Phoenix to take him home. Toles initially welcomed their arrival, but quickly told them he wasn’t going with them. He ran. And ran. Even showing up at Dodger Stadium one day only to quickly leave.
He’s still running today.
“It’s heartbreaking, literally heartbreaking,’’ says Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, who drafted Toles while with the Rays, and visited with him at the facility. “I have a long history with Andrew, and I just wish there was something more we could do to help.”
Alvin Toles said that several of his son’s former teammates and current Dodgers players reached out last weekend. All-Star third baseman Justin Turner even offered to pay for Toles’ medical bills for treatment.
“It no longer became a baseball issue, but a matter of his personal well-being,’’ Reynolds said. “Everybody made efforts to help him. The Dodgers organization was very consistently involved, and Ron Portfield was outstanding, and went far and above, looking out for Andrew during the process.”
Toles family seeks guardianship
The Toles’ family, feeling a sense of relief now that the secret is out, is not looking for money to help their only son.
They simply want power.
Power to change the legal system and allow guardianship.
Power to be able to force Toles to come home with them to Atlanta, be placed under care where he can receive help.
Power to do the right thing.
“I don’t particularly care if my brother plays baseball again,’’ Morgan Toles says. “I just want him to be a functioning human being in society. I know there are laws that protect him. But those same laws hurt him. My brother has been really sick, and he doesn’t even know it.
“We want to get guardianship, but to do that without his consent, he has to be a threat to himself or someone else. So basically, you’re waiting for something tragic to happen.
“The laws have to change for a person that needs help, but refuses to get it.’’
The Toles family can’t force him to be admitted to a mental-health hospital. They can’t make him take his medication. They can’t coerce him to live in their hometown of Atlanta, even if they buy him a home.
The trouble, too, is that while Toles may be homeless, he has money, accruing close to $1 million playing parts of three major league seasons. He may be in a homeless shelter in LA one day, and staying at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta the next. He has enough money to take a plane trip anywhere at any time.
Toles, who’s currently in a Key West hospital, Morgan said, has an arraignment court date set Thursday. The family has hired a lawyer.
“Honestly, I don’t expect him to show up,’’ Morgan said. “He’s probably not even aware. They’re holding him in a hospital because he’s so incoherent and will give him medication until he gets through it. But after that, and he’s able to verbalize he wants out, he can leave when he seems fit.’’
Alvin Toles packed his bags and started driving Tuesday to see his son. He prays he’ll still be there when he arrives. But if his son doesn’t want to see him, unwilling to get treatment, he’s powerless to help.
“I just want my son healthy again,” Alvin Toles said, “because this is heartbreaking for everyone.’’
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
Having the apt skills to play with words to put forth various updates and news relating to the field of technology in an interesting way has made Adrian is a contributor in our organization. He is dedicated to writing articles related to all the up-to-the-minute inventions, launches, updates, and much more happening in the world of technology. In his free time, Adrian offers a guest lecture to kids about the latest inventions.