Nash’s bridges

Before we anoint 18-year-old phenom Toe Nash as The Natural, let's see if he can make it to Triple A.

Topics: Baseball,

He was the complete package. Six-foot-six, 215 pounds, with Ruthian power from the left side, Aaronesque pop from the right, a rocket of a fastball, size 18 feet and a mythic-sounding name. He was 18 when he was discovered playing in a weekly beer league for men who toiled in the fields, where he’d gone to work when he was 16, three years after he quit school.

A big league team worked him out. To get to the workout he flew on a plane and left his home state for the first time in his life. He hit 10 of 25 pitches for home runs right-handed, then turned around and did the exact same thing lefty. Then he went down to the bullpen and, with a windup that looked like Satchel Paige’s, fired strikes at 95 mph. He was signed on the spot. He got an agent. He was so green one of his new teammates had to teach him how to order pizza on the phone. Pretty soon his story was being told coast to coast. The offers poured in. They wanted to turn his life into movies, books, and television.

Sound familiar? Sound a little like the story of Roy Hobbes or Sidd Finch or Nuke LaLoosh?

But it’s all real. This mythical creature, this biopic waiting to happen, is named Toe Nash. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed him out of the southern Louisiana sugar cane fields. A scout named Benny Latino had spotted Nash playing Little League ball and made a mental note to check back on him in a few years, when he was in high school. But there was never any sign of Greg Nash, known as “Toe” since he was 3 because of his huge feet. Latino searched the box scores to no avail. Only later would Latino learn that Nash had been expelled from the eighth grade and had never gone back to school.

Latino was finally tipped off to check out the kid tearing up the sugar cane league. He found the boy, now a giant of a young man, and could scarcely believe what he saw. In this age of scouting combines and talent databases, undiscovered gems were supposed to be an extinct species.

Following that now-legendary workout Nash signed with the Devil Rays for a $30,000 signing bonus, and the starmaker machinery wheezed into gear. Peter Gammons wrote about him for (“Devil Rays find The Natural in the cane fields”). USA Today put him on its cover (“Youth a real-life version of ‘The Natural’”). Other papers picked up the story. (Montreal Gazette: “The Natural from the cane fields.” Detroit Free Press: “Sometimes, all a kid needs is to be found.” Ottawa Sun: “Toe Nash could be next Natural.” Chicago Sun-Times: “A Natural fact.” Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise: “The Nashural.” And so on, naturally.) Hollywood called.

Now, before anybody approves the final draft of that shooting script, here’s how many games Toe Nash has played in organized baseball, from high school on up: 10. The Devil Rays brought him to a winter instructional league in Florida, where he got into those few games, though the coaches preferred to work with him one-on-one because he’s so raw.

Toe Nash’s story comes straight out of the American mythos. It’s in our bones to respond to its rags to riches, farm to city, pure talent wins out rhythm. But let’s hold on here. This movie hasn’t even reached the second reel. That 30 Gs is certainly more money than Toe Nash has ever seen before, but he’s nowhere near being a success story. The rookie league where the Devil Rays expect he’ll play this year is five promotions away from the majors, each step on the ladder unimaginably hard to make. For every star like Mark McGwire or Pedro Martinez — and every journeyman like Kurt Abbott or Terry Mulholland — there are hundreds of astonishing power hitters and unhittable fireballers who never make it to the bigs. Toe Nash is only a little closer to the majors than you are. And I’ve seen you go to your right on a grounder.

We’re in bad need of heroes. We live in an era when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is made to seem like Mother Teresa because he signed for “only” $18.9 million a year, $6.3 million less than the Rangers will pay Alex Rodriguez. What a selfless act! He could have demanded so much more, but with all the money he let the Yanks save, they can pay … a utility infielder to back him up. Jeter’s a wonderful player and for all I know a peach of a guy, but it’s a desperate stretch, after only five years, to compare him to Joe DiMaggio, as has become fashionable of late. Especially now that we’ve learned that even Joe DiMaggio wasn’t Joe Dimaggio.

Meanwhile, not that this is a bad thing for the movie, it was revealed that Nash had been arrested five times in the 10 months since his 18th birthday, including once on a felony robbery charge stemming from a fight at a house party and once on mutual domestic violence charges after a fight with his 41-year-old girlfriend. There’s also a marijuana possession charge.

On Friday, the assistant district attorney in Ascension Parish said he’s going to let Nash enter a pretrial intervention program. He’ll have to submit to random drug tests for at least six months and stay out of trouble. If he succeeds, the charges will be dropped. In the meantime, he can go to spring training and play ball.

The law’s giving Toe Nash a chance. Before we green-light his life story, we should too.

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>