Do you remember Toe Nash? The answer is probably no. Nash was a prospect who came out of nowhere in 2001, getting discovered by Tampa Bay Devil Rays scout Benny Lantino playing semi-pro in Louisiana and signing with the team for $30,000. He was a switch-hitting outfielder who stood out for his light-tower power, and he showcased that power with 8 home runs in his pro debut with the Princeton Devil Rays. Then, as suddenly as he arrived, Nash was gone, heading to jail and getting released when he returned. Nash’s story is about as crazy as they come, and Tampa Bay Rays fans will get an opportunity to watch it on Sunday on ESPN. It will first air at 9:00 AM on Outside the Lines before appearing on the 10:00 AM SportsCenter and other times throughout the day. Here’s a preview.
There are a few players that epitomize the Devil Rays years in Tampa Bay, with the best example being Matt White, the right-hander who signed for a $10.2 million bonus in 1996 but never made the major leagues. You can put Toe Nash right beside him. We are used to Rays prospects coming up and being even better than we thought. Lately, that has even been true for position players. In only the past year, Wil Myers won AL Rookie of the Year while both Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer have delivered impressive results in their first full years in the major leagues. With Myers, you always hear about the ball sounding different off of his bat–the same exact thing said about Toe Nash. But while Myers ascended to the majors and gave Rays fans everywhere the opportunity to hear that sound, Nash is long forgotten and never got the chance.
With Myers struggling this season before getting hurt, we are reminded of the players like Nash, the top prospects with seemingly limitless potential that never worked out. As you watch Toe Nash’s story on SportsCenter, it will be a chilling reminder of how quickly everything can change for a prospect and a fascinating perspective on how lucky the Rays have been with players like Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. Watch the feature when you get the chance, and it should prompt an interesting discussion between Rays fans and simply baseball fans throughout the country.