Longtime Angels public relations official Eric Kay was aware of Tyler Skaggs’ drug use and supplied him with drugs shortly before he died, according to a report published on Saturday by ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Kay reportedly told the Drug Enforcement Agency that he and Skaggs had used opioids together for years, and he had watched Skaggs snort three lines of crushed opioids in the pitcher’s hotel room hours before he died July 1 in Southlake, Texas.
Kay also told DEA officials about five other players he believed were using opioids while with the Angels, according to the report.
The Angels issued a statement denying they had any knowledge of drug use by Skaggs or any other players or staff members.
“We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics,” Angels President John Carpino said in the statement. “The Angels maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB Joint Drug Agreement. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler and fully cooperate with the authorities as they continue their investigation.”
Kay had worked in Angels’ media relations department for 24 years, although he has been on administrative leave since July, shortly after Skaggs died. He is reportedly currently undergoing outpatient drug treatment.
Kay’s Irvine-based attorney, Michael Molfetta, told ESPN that he is not currently aware that Kay is the target of investigations by any of the involved law enforcement agencies. Molfetta refused comment when reached Saturday afternoon by the Southern California News Group. Kay did not respond to a message.
Kay told federal officials that two other Angels officials were aware of Skaggs’ drug use years earlier, according to ESPN. One of them was Tim Mead, the longtime vice president in charge of communications, who reportedly learned of the drug use among Skaggs and Kay in 2017.
Mead, reached by phone Saturday, declined comment. A day earlier, Mead had told ESPN he was unaware of drug use by Skaggs or Kay.
“I have had a lot of conversations with Eric Kay about a lot of things, but opioids and Tyler Skaggs were not one of them,” Mead told ESPN.
Mead had worked for the Angels for 40 years before leaving in June to become president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in suburban Dallas just before the Angels were to begin a series against the Texas Rangers. Two months later, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office reported that Skaggs had died because he choked on his own vomit. Opioids oxycodone and fentanyl were found in his blood, along with alcohol. The Southlake Police Department and Major League Baseball have been investigating the case.
After results of the autopsy were released, Skaggs’ family issued a statement indicating they had hired well-known Texas attorney Rustin Hardin to assist in their investigation of how Skaggs obtained the drugs.
“The Skaggs family continues to mourn the loss of a beloved son, brother, husband, and son-in-law,” Hardin said in a statement to ESPN. “They greatly appreciate the work that law enforcement is doing, and they are patiently awaiting the results of the investigation.”
Kay reportedly told the DEA he had supplied Skaggs with drugs for years. An examination of their Venmo accounts showed numerous online payments from Skaggs to Kay over two years, ranging from $150 to $600.
According to ESPN, Kay told the DEA he had supplied Skaggs with six illegally obtained oxycodone pills a few days before the team left California the night of June 30 for the trip to Texas.
On the afternoon of July 1, as the team was preparing to leave its hotel, located about 20 minutes north of Globe Life Park in Arlington, teammates worried that Skaggs had not replied to messages. He was found in his room, unresponsive. According to the coroner’s report, he was still wearing the black jeans he had been pictured in on the flight the night before. The players wore western attire because they were beginning a weeklong trip to Texas, also including a stop in Houston.
Skaggs’ death rocked the Angels and all of baseball. The game was postponed the day of his death, and the Angels returned to action the following day, with patches bearing Skaggs’ No. 45.
On July 12, the first home game after his death, all the Angels wore Skaggs’ name and number on their jerseys. Taylor Cole and Félix Peña combined on a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners, with the players all laying their jerseys on the mound after the game.
The Angels wore No. 45 patches for the rest of the season, and players on other teams who had known Skaggs also continued to honor him.