Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that a toxicology report by the Tarrant County Medical Examiners office revealed the cause of former Angels Baseball pitcher Tyler Skagg’s death. Found dead hours before a game with the Texas Rangers in his hotel room on July 1, it was confirmed that Skaggs had fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his system, which caused him to choke on his own vomit.
While the death was ruled an accident, autopsy report answered some eyebrow raising questions bout the death of the 27-year-old the pitchers family sent a statement to the Times noting that they believe an Angels Baseball employee may have provided Skaggs with the drugs, and are currently considering legal action.
“We are grateful for the work of the detectives in the Southlake Police Department and their ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death. We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels. We will not rest until we ledarn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them. To that end, we have hired attorney Rusty Hardin to assist us.”
The Dangers of Fentanyl
Skaggs had a blood-alcohol level of 0.122 (above the legal limit of 0.08), 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl and 38 nanograms of oxycodone, a prescription-strength pain killer, in his system when he died. The use of oxycodone is strictly prohibited by Major League Baseball.
A spokesman for Major League Baseball, Pat Courtney, said league officials had seen the family’s statement. “We were unaware of this allegation and will investigate,” he said.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent on a weight-by-weight basis. When taken in uncontrolled concentrations by unsuspecting users, or by users whose opioid tolerance has not been heightened by long-term use, the drug is more likely even than prescription opioids to suppress respiration and cause death.
Skaggs death created a surge of emotions for the Angels. The night of his death, the game was postponed and the team relocated to a new hotel. Upon returning to the field the next day, the Angels hung Skagg’s jersey in their dugout and carved his initials into the back of the pitcher’s mound. The Angels owner, Arte Moreno called Skagg’s death a “punch in the heart,” and when the team played its next game at home, the late pitcher’s mother, Debbie, threw out the first pitch.
Every player wore Skaggs’ No. 45 that night, and pitchers Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined for a no-hitter.
“I feel like we have an angel looking down on us,” Pena said in Spanish on the field after the last out.
Brad Ausmus, the Angels manager, called it one of the most special moments he had experienced in 25 years in baseball. He also said, before that game, that the reason Skaggs died would not matter to him when it was revealed.
“At this point, I don’t really care,” Ausmus told reporters then. “His loss is his loss, and there’s an emptiness regardless of the cause. I’m not in any rush to find out. All I know is Tyler Skaggs is no longer here. He had a lot of friends and family that cared about him a lot. The reason he died isn’t what hurts; the fact that he died is what hurts.”
“We Are Deeply Saddened”
The Angels also released a statement about Skaggs’ autopsy. “Tyler was and always will be a beloved member of the Angels Family and we are deeply saddened to learn what caused this tragic death,” the team said. “Angels Baseball has provided our full cooperation and assistance to the Southlake Police as they conduct their investigation.”
Remember more in for his life than his death, Skaggs made 96 starts across seven major-league seasons, going 28-38 with a 4.41 E.R.A. But as a young left-hander, he still held great promise, and he beat the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals in consecutive road starts in the weeks before his death, allowing one run and no walks over a combined 12 1/3 innings.