Eric Kay, a former Los Angeles Angels communications executive, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for supplying opioid drugs that resulted in the death of Tyler Skaggs, a pitcher on the team in 2019. Kay, 47, was convicted of two felony charges by a federal jury in Fort Worth, Tx., in February: providing Skaggs with counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl that resulted in his death, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, reports the Wall Street Journal. At the sentencing hearing, evidence showed calls Kay made from jail in which he insulted Skaggs and his family, as a demonstration of his lack of empathy. “I hope people realize what a piece of shit he is,” Kay was recorded telling his mother. “Well, he’s dead, so f___ ‘em.” Skaggs was found dead at the age of 27, hours before a game, in his hotel room after choking on his vomit with oxycodone, fentanyl, and alcohol in his system.
Skaggs' death brought to Major League Baseball an opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, fueled by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. The sport began mandating opioid testing for players less than six months later, with accompanying provisions stipulating that players who test positive will be subject to discipline only if they fail to cooperate with a treatment plan. Kay’s trial raised significant questions about the use of opioid painkillers inside baseball clubhouses., especially regarding the mentality toward performance enhancers. Players Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron, Matt Harvey, Mike Morin, and Blake Parker testified that they had received oxycodone from Kay while they were with the Angels. Kay often traveled on road trips with the Angels and was a public-relations contact for journalists. U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham praised the sentence, saying: “The Skaggs family learned the hard way: One fentanyl pill can kill. That’s why our office is committed to holding to account anyone who deals in illicit opioids, whether they operate in back alleyways or world class stadiums.”