According to CNN, on August 7, the US Attorney in Texas announced that Kay “has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with the 2019 overdose death of Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs.”
The report, written by journalist T.J. Quinn, an ESPN staff writer, alleges that Kay “told federal investigators that he provided oxycodone to Tyler Skaggs and abused it with him for years.” Quinn also alleges that “two team officials were told about Skaggs’ drug use long before his death.” Kay has not been arrested or charged with anything in connection with Skaggs’ death, however.
Skaggs, 27, was found dead on July 1 in a Texas hotel room from “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents,” according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office. In common language, that means he choked on his own vomit. Although ruled an accident, the Southlake Texas Police Department has stated previously that an Angels team employee may have been involved, without naming that person.
The death of Skaggs crushed fans and other players. A memorial to Skaggs grew outside Angels’ stadium in Anaheim, California, as fans arrived with flowers, balloons, and stuff animals in memory of Skaggs. According to The Chicago Tribune, GM Jon Daniels and Manager Chris Woodward broke the news to the players in a clubhouse scene that was closed to the news media.
“There were a lot of pretty emotional guys in there, you could tell. Some guys knew him. (Jesse Chavez) had actually played with him in LA,” Woodward said, according to the Trib. “Some guys that didn’t even know him were visibly shaken.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Eric Kay, Who Entered Drug Treatment, Has Worked as a Top Communications Employee for the Angels for Years & Tweeted About Skaggs’ Death
According to ESPN, Eric Kay is the Angels’ director of communications. Kay’s LinkedIn page says he has been Los Angeles Angeles Communications Director for more than six years.
Kay is indeed listed as the team’s director of communications in this edition of the Los Angeles Angels’ magazine.
Kay tweeted “No words. #45” in a post about a Skaggs’ memorial. On July 8, he wrote, “To the #Angels fans that held candlelight vigil last night upon team’s arrival home, you are amazing and I’m sure Tyler smiled down. #RIP45.” His last tweet was in August.
ESPN reported that Kay is “in outpatient treatment for substance abuse” and on paid leave from his Angels’ job.
2. Kay Is Accused of Telling Federal Authorities He Gave Illegally Obtained Oxycodone Pills to Skaggs
According to Quinn, Kay gave federal authorities “the names of five other players who he believed were using opiates while they were Angels.”
ESPN reported that Kay is accused of telling investigators he gave three “illegally obtained” oxycodone pills to Skaggs shortly before Skaggs left for a game in Texas but doesn’t think they’re the same ones that killed him. Quinn reported that Kay has a lawyer, Michael Molfetta, who confirmed some of the details. Kay met with DEA agents, according to ESPN.
ESPN further reported that Kay allegedly told DEA investigators that hours before Skaggs died, Skaggs texted Kay to visit him in his hotel room and “Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him.” He claimed he didn’t use drugs in that meeting.
Skaggs’ family released a statement after his cause of death was revealed. “We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol. That is completely out of character for someone who worked so hard to become a Major League Baseball player and had a very promising future in the game he loved so much,” it read.
“We are grateful for the work of the detectives in the Southlake Police Department and their onging investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death. We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angeles. We will not rest until we learn 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.”
3. Kay Previously Worked for the Rose Bowl & as an Intern for the Los Angeles Rams
Kay’s LinkedIn page outlines his previous experience for prominent sports teams. He lists his title as “stadium media operations” for the Rose Bowl Game for 15 years.
He’s worked in Communications for Angels baseball for 23 years. Before that, he served as an intern for the Anaheim Ducks for 1 year in the 1990s. He was an intern in 1994 for the Los Angeles Rams.
An Angels’ spokesperson told ESPN: “We are shocked to hear these reports. … We had no prior knowledge of Tyler or any other member of the Angels organization having abused opioids or any narcotic and continue to work with law enforcement to get answers.”
4. Kay Is a Graduate of Pepperdine University, Where He Was in a Fraternity; Kay Reportedly Struggled Over His Father’s Death
According to his LinkedIn page, Kay graduated from Pepperdine University in 1996 with a degree in public relations. He listed Sig Ep Fraternity under activities.
On his Twitter page, Skaggs wrote, “Duckie from ‘Pretty in Pink’ is my spirit animal.” On Facebook, he wrote, “I want you to know somebody cares, not me, but somebody out there does.”
Kay wrote on Twitter that former Angels executive Tim Mead was his father figure. “What can I ever say to express my gratitude to @TMead2002? Thank you seems so far off. He has influenced my life in so many ways, mostly how to be kind & compassionate. I lost my dad in 1998 & Tim took over that father figure role in my life. He is the best man I know. #Angels,” he wrote.
Kay’s mother (who is an interior designer in Orange County, according to her Facebook page) says her son’s opioid abuse started a couple years after his father died, ESPN reported. He was recovering from an overdose in the hospital last April when Skaggs texted him seeking drugs, according to sports site, which further alleged that Kay’s mother told Mead to get Skaggs off Kay’s back. Mead denied to ESPN that anyone’s brought up Skaggs’ name in that conversation or “that Skaggs was an opioid user at any other time” but ESPN reported that Kay told authorities he mentioned Skaggs’ drug use to Mead in 2017, something Mead also denies.
5. Eric Kay Is Married & a Father of Young Children; Skaggs Had Been Married Since 2018 When He Died
Kay is married to wife Camela. Both of their Facebook pages are filled with photos of their children and family life. One photo showed the kids holding cardboard signs that read “welcome home dad.” Other photos show the kids in baseball uniforms.
Skaggs was in a relatively new marriage at the time he died. You can learn more about his wife here.
The Southlake Police Department wrote in a press release that, at 2:18 p.m., the PD “responded to a call of an unconscious male in a room in the Hilton hotel at 1400 Plaza Place. Officers arrived and found the male unresponsive and he was pronounced deceased at the scene.” The police say “no foul play is suspected” and the “investigation is ongoing.” They named Skaggs as the man found. Dispatch audio obtained by the Blast showed the call came in for a “medical emergency” and then a “possible death investigation.”
Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by today’s tragedy in Texas. All of us at Major League Baseball express our deepest condolences to Tyler’s wife, Carli, his family, his friends and all his teammates and colleagues of the Angels.”
This is the team’s official statement:
Angels statement on the passing of Tyler Skaggs. pic.twitter.com/6XA2Vu1uWV
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) July 1, 2019
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District released a statement on July 1 that read, “We are devastated to hear the news that Santa Monica High School graduate, Tyler Skaggs, has passed away…Tyler continued to make visits to our schools the past several years to speak with students and we proudly watched his ascent in professional baseball, along with his family. Tyler’s mother, Debbie, was a previous girls softball coach at Samohi and is currently a physical education teacher. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fans during this difficult time.”