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After Skaggs’ Death, MLB Can’t Afford to Balk at Treating Players’ Addictions

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Just over three months after the death of Major League Baseball pitcher Tyler Skaggs, an employee of the Los Angeles Angels admitted tsupplying Skaggs with drugs. 

Eric Kay, the Director of Communications for the Angels, claims he brought Skaggs’ drug use to the attention of other Angels front office employees. The organization disputes the claim. Kay also claims that more players on the Angels roster use opioids, although he did not name them publicly.  

Given the extent of the opioid crisis impacting all walks of life in the United States, assuming MLB players are somehow immune to this disease, or that Skaggs’ drug use is entirely isolated is foolish.  

In a column for NBC Sports, Craig Calcaterra writes “It seems logical that it would extend beyond the Angels, at least. From gambling and throwing games in the early days of the game to alcohol addiction during its alleged ‘Golden Age’ to cocaine in the 1970s and 80s and on to PEDs in the 90s and early 2000s, vice and/or addiction in Major League Baseball always — always — extends to more than one club.” 

Though the news broke early this week, Major League Baseball, aside from providing statements to assert unawareness of Skaggs or any other players drug use, has mostly swept the issue under the rug.  The Angels organization has similarly released statements asserting unawareness.  

The news comes in the middle of the league’s post season, one of the heaviest revenue sources during the entire season. Major League Baseball’s website and its news section is filled with game highlights and offseason rumor mill banter, with no mention of the developing story about Skaggs. It’s not even buried elsewhere on the site, it is non-existent. While the drug overdose death of a player who received substances from a front office employee is not good PR, it is also unwise for the MLB to not be taking immediate action.  

Imagine, if now, in the middle of the playoffs, when more eyes than ever are on MLB, the league announced that it will fund efforts for drug prevention programming for little league programs throughout the country. Imagine if they tried to empower those with substance use disorder, not only to professional athletes, but to fans. 

Instead of pretending like the problem is not occurring, and adding stricter and more punitive drug screenings, MLB could show compassion. It could release a statement recognizing that the entire country is amid an opioid epidemic, and although the league is made of the most talented baseball players on the planet, they too are only humans.  

“If the league’s stab at [alleviating the opioid problem among players] involves making a point to name those other five Angels players Kay mentioned to the DEA or if it involves casting them or other addicted players around the league as villains or poster children, it’ll be the wrong move,” Calcaterra said. “Wrong in an absolute sense in that it would work to blame addicts in ways that, I would hope, we’re all smarter about now than the way we used to be.” 

Turning a blind eye to addiction will not alleviate the issue, and if nothing is done, MLB and every other professional sports organizations should not feign disbelief when this happens again. 

If you are struggling with addiction or alcoholism, there is help. At Amatus Recovery Centers across the country, we offer the full continuum of drug and alcohol treatment, from medical assisted detox to long-term group therapy aftercare.   

The easiest way to recover from addiction or alcoholism is to seek help. Call an admissions specialist today at 833-216-3079 to learn about our addiction treatment options and determine which one is right for you.   

Amatus Recovery Centers, a division of Amatus Health, offers treatment for drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders in facilities across the country. To learn more visit amatusrecoverycenters.com