For a minute, Andrew Toles was an unlikely hero in Los Angeles. Now, his story has turned into a tragedy.
Andrew Toles‘ path to the major leagues was surrounded by uncertainty. However, there was no denying his talent.
After graduating from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia, Toles was selected in the fourth round by the Florida Marlins in 2010. However, he decided to attend the University of Tennessee instead.
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In his first year at Tennessee, he was named to the 2011 SEC All-Freshman team. Despite his success, he was dismissed from the team for unspecified reasons. The following year, he transferred to Chipola College, where he was suspended once again for breaking team rules.
Despite his character issues, the Tampa Bay Rays still selected him in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft. From there, he embarked on his MLB journey. Talent-wise, Toles had a clear path to the majors. He was a great fielder with immense speed and excellent contact skills. His only obstacle was himself.
Toles shined early in his professional career. He earned a wealth of honors within the Rays organization, including being named the 2013 Rays’ Minor League Player of the Year after leading the Class A Midwest League in batting average and hits.
In 2014, however, his behavioral problems began to resurface. As a member of the Charlotte Stone Crabs, he was benched multiple times by manager Jared Sandberg for not hustling. Soon after, he was placed on the inactive list for unspecified personal reasons.
After attending spring training in 2015, Toles was released by the Rays for disciplinary reasons. He briefly worked at a grocery store during his year away from baseball.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided to give Toles a second chance at a major league career. After receiving an email from the then-Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler, Toles signed a minor league deal with the organization. Invigorated by the new environment, Toles quickly moved up the ranks in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Then, he was called upon July 8th to make his major league debut against the San Diego Padres. In 48 games, Toles made a big contribution, hitting .314 with 3 home runs and 16 RBIs.
However, he truly made a name for himself in the 2016 postseason. Playing 8 of their 11 postseason games, Toles hit .364 with 6 runs scored.
Thus, Toles entered 2017 with high expectations. Serving as their primary lead-off hitter and left fielder, Toles played exceptionally well through 31 games. He hit .271 with 5 home runs and 15 RBIs. However, he tore his ACL in early May, ending his season prematurely.
He recovered from injury in 2018 but only played 17 games with the Dodgers. he spent most of his time down in Triple-A, where he played well once again.
At this point, there was still hope for Andrew Toles. He was one of baseball’s great Cinderella stories, and nothing was stopping him from returning to his former glory in 2019. In fact, the Dodgers traded away both Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, so the starting job was there for the taking.
However, he never reported to training camp. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, he informed the team he was leaving for a trip and never returned. Soon after, Toles’ family placed him in a mental health facility.
From then on, the story gets more and more tragic. It is the story of a man running away from help, from his family, from his career. Throughout it all, his mental state continues to deteriorate, as he becomes further out-of-touch with reality.
“He keeps running. He is in a state of paranoia,” Toles’ father Alvin told Nightengale, “He’s running from people. He just keeps running like someone is after him. He needs help before it’s too late”
He has gone in and out of countless mental health institutions since he went on the run and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
On June 22, Toles was arrested for trespassing while sleeping in his car outside of the Key West Airport in Florida. This marked the first time Toles’ struggle with the law, homelessness, and mental illness were publicized. While this news shocked baseball fans, it provided his family with a sense of relief.
His arrest let his family know he was alive, though not well. His family has since tried to obtain guardianship over him, but the 28-year-old must first give consent.
The heartbreaking story of Andrew Toles is just beginning to unravel. During his almost year-long journey on the run, he has traveled as far as Hong Kong, where he was arrested for stealing gas over the holiday season.
Right now, Toles’ story runs far deeper than baseball. He is a man in need of serious help. Hopefully, he will find a way to recover his lost mental state and return to the people who love him.