Andrew Toles is still on the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ roster but hasn’t played baseball in three years.
The Dodgers won the World Series last year, but while they were celebrating on the field in Arlington, Texas, Toles was in a hospital room in Florida.
Toles is unaware of the Dodgers’ accomplishment, his family says, unable to watch baseball or anything else on TV, let alone talk about baseball.
Toles, 29, who has been in and out of too many mental-health clinics and hospitals to count, in and out of too many homeless shelters to keep track, suffers from schizophrenia, the cruel and ruthless mental illness that threatens to completely shred a person’s pride and dignity.
“He’s not really living, but just floating,” Morgan Toles, Andrew’s sister, an assistant basketball coach at Florida State, tells USA TODAY Sports. “It’s almost zombie-like. I don’t know if he’ll ever get better. None of us do.
“But, at least, we’re not worrying whether he’s alive.’’
Toles was arrested last summer when he was found homeless, asleep behind a Fed Ex Building at the Key West International Airport in Florida. He has been in at least 20 mental health clinics since 2019, a year after leaving the Dodgers.
Now, Toles is back home in Fairburn, Georgia. He lives just around the corner from a man who gets up at 2 a.m. most mornings, hauls chemicals in his truck for a living, and never lets a day go by without making sure Toles is eating, taking his medication and is safe from his demons.
The man has been so distraught with worry, he sometimes cries himself to sleep, wanting so badly to make things right, but overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness.
It’s Alvin Toles, Andrew’s dad.
Alvin Toles is a single father now, separated from his wife, with Toles’ mental illness fracturing the family, as he takes care of Andrew and 22-year-old daughter, Kasey.
“This has kind of torn my family apart, it’s worn on everybody,’’ Morgan Toles said. “I try not to think about it. It breaks my heart thinking about what my Dad is going through.
“He’ll call me and check in, and see what’s going on, and I’ll hear his voice crack. I’ve heard him cry more than I ever have in my life. He keeps saying, ‘Everything will be OK,’ and doesn’t want to burden me with anything, but I know he’s hurting.
“I worry about him, he’s carrying so much.’’
Alvin Toles, 58, who spent four years playing for the New Orleans Saints after starring at the University of Tennessee, concedes that he cries at times when no one is looking. He wants to stay strong for his family. If he fell apart, what would happen to his family? The medical expenses pile up, with a new $24,000 due in legal fees for a court-appointed lawyer that was no longer needed.
So, he prays. He prays for strength. He prays for guidance. And, of course, he prays for Andrew.
“I just want him to have a chance in life,’’ Alvin Toles softly says. “That’s all. Just to be healthy, live a normal life. I’d do anything for my son and my kids, and I know their mother cares a great deal, too.”
It was Alvin who got into his car the morning of Dec. 19, 2020, getting a tip that his son was wandering around the streets in West Palm Beach, Florida. He found him a day later, calling it a miracle from God.
Alvin Toles worked with attorney Audra Simovitch to gain legal guardianship over his adult son, assuring that Andrew would receive the best health care, and not be locked up in a state institute and simply heavily medicated with little chance of improvement.
Toles is traumatized by hospitals, his dad said, and refuses to step inside the doors. The mental-health clinics didn’t work either with Toles constantly fleeing when he felt he was healthy.
So, once Alvin Toles gained guardianship this past November, he was finally able to take his son back home, living just 50 yards apart from one another.
“I give Alvin a lot of credit for trying to help,’’ Simovitch says. “He’s dealing with a lot. I’ve seen a lot of families give up. It’s just too hard on them. Otherwise, Andrew might be like most people, and still wandering the streets.’’
Gwendale Boyd-Willis, 45, the goddaughter of Alvin and Vicky Toles who is a chaplain in the Atlanta area, says it’s difficult to describe the love Alvin has for his son. He takes Andrew out for meals. He’ll clean his house. Some days they’ll just silently sit together for hours. And they’ll pray.
“It’s heartbreaking to see this happen,” says Boyd, diagnosed with bipolar when she was 17. “Mental illness is just now getting the attention of people now when it should have been a long time ago. I can’t imagine what Alvin is going through as a parent. He’s been a phenomenal father.
“The strength it takes to go through all of this, it’s a wonder he hasn’t had a breakdown, because when it’s your child, that’s a lot of heavy weight and stress.’’
It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. Alvin Toles will go to church. He’ll see Andrew. He’ll have a barbeque with his stepfather. And he’ll see Andrew again before bed.
There likely will be more tears, too.
“We are having challenges,’’ Alvin Toles says, “but nothing that God and I can’t handle. Schizophrenia, it’s just so tough. I mean, he can’t even watch TV. He hears voices and the TV at the same time, so it’s kind of confusing. I’ve seen him looking at some baseball games on his laptop, but I don’t think he really understands what’s going on.
“I don’t think he understands that the Dodgers won the World Series.’’
The Dodgers continue to show support and empathy towards Toles, keeping him on their restricted list, letting him know that he’s still part of the organization. Toles spent parts of three years with the Dodgers, hitting .286 with a .792 OPS, and being a one-man show in the 2016 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, hitting .462 with a 1.082 OPS.
“His name will pop up randomly in our clubhouse,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He fit in with us so fondly and was so adored. It’s just sad to see what has transpired and knowing that a lot of it is out of his control.
“Man, I would love to see him. I’d love to put my arms around him. I miss him. I really miss him.’’
Maybe one day, Alvin Toles said, he could take Andrew to a Dodgers game when they come to Atlanta. Maybe it would be good for him to see familiar faces again like Justin Turner. Maybe, there would be a sense of normalcy.
The real dream, Alvin Toles says, is for his son to have a real life. He talks about working one day building homes, teaching his son the nuances of construction work and working side by side.
Every single day.
And celebrating the greatest Father’s Day of his life.
“My Dad is such a strong person, so resilient,’’ Morgan Toles says. “He’ll never give up helping Andrew, even when the days are the darkest and he doesn’t know how it will end.
“I never told him this before, but I’m just so proud to have him as a Dad. Me and my siblings are so lucky to have him as our dad.’’
One day, maybe Andrew will be able to convey the same sentiments, knowing that his Dad’s love never wavered, not even in the worst of times, always there when Andrew needed him the most.
“People want to assume that we want Andrew to be who he was before,’’ Morgan Toles said. “That’s not true. We just want him to be happy and healthy. He could be a garbage man. He can be a yoga instructor. We just want him to be healthy.
“My dad just wants to get back to some type of normalcy.
“Really, he just wants his son back.’’
Enough is enough
Please, pitchers, can you stop with all of the complaints?
Sure, the timing isn’t the greatest for baseball’s crackdown on illegal foreign substances, but when was the perfect time?
The warnings were given in March. The evidence was collected in April and May. The number of pitchers blatantly cheating was staggering, with every team in baseball guilty of having someone of their pitching staff using foreign substances to increase their spin rates.
It starts Monday with umpires checking starting pitchers at least twice a game and relievers at least once, making sure they are not using anything on their hands except for the rosin bag.
Pitchers are outraged that the crackdown starts in the middle of the season, but they’re the ones who ignored the warnings, laughed at the threats, leaving MLB no choice but to institute the crackdown after watching the cheaters suffocate the life out of the game.
Certainly, it already has begun working simply since MLB informed the owners on June 3 that the crackdown is coming.
Take a look for yourselves:
In the two months pitchers flaunted the illegal foreign no-substance rule, hitters batted .236 with a .312 on-base percentage, .395 slugging percentage and a .707 OPS.
Since June 3: .247, .316 on-base percnreage, .416 slugging percentage, .732 OPS.
Home runs are up.
Strikeouts are down.
Spin rates are way down.
And the art of pitching is about to go way up.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer, with his spin rate down 210 rpm on his four-seam fastball in recent weeks, threw seven shutout innings against the Diamondbacks in his last start, permitting just three hits while striking out eight, mixing in an array of all his pitches.
New York Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, with his spin rate down from his season average of 2,549 to 2,347 in his last start, allowed four hits and two runs in eight innings against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup in his last start, while striking out four batters.
They still dominated without the use of Spider Tack and every other type of goop on their fingers, while the game still had plenty of action.
It may be quite refreshing this summer watching pitchers actually pitch instead of loading up with illegal substances and throwing the ball past everybody.
And, please, while we’re at it, can we stop with the narrative that pitchers will suddenly lose control without the use of foreign substances.
It’s bogus. Hitters have been hit with more pitches than at any time in history this season. Maybe it was actually the sticky stuff that led to the plethora of hit batters, with pitches looking like Wiffle Balls flying in the air without anyone knowing where it’s going.
“I’ve seen some pitches this year,’’ says Yankees infielder D.J. LeMahieu, “I’ve never seen in my whole career.’’
Maybe now we will go back to the days where pitchers actually pitch, and hitters actually have a chance to hit.
“I think it goes back to the pitcher is actually learning how to pitch and actually locating pitches,’’ Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez says. “Now, you can (still) throw as hard as you can, but you actually have to control it … as versus before when you throw it as hard as you can and you didn’t know where it went.”
Around the bases
► Can someone please steal the Houston Astros’ offensive playbook, or at least copy it?
It’s OK, no cheating is involved.
The Astros are hitting like they’re going back in time.
They entered Saturday leading the major leagues with a .274 batting average, .344 on-base percentage, .451 slugging percentage, .794 OPS, and the most important stat of all: Runs.
Yes, they even have more hits (653) than strikeouts (500), while ranking just eighth in home runs.
In this era of launch angle and strikeouts, the Astros are proving that the old-school approach still can work, and that strikeouts suffocate the life out of offenses.
“You’ve got to have pride,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “They say strikeouts aren’t important, but you see how many games we’ve won just by putting the ball in play.”
► The Curse of the No-Hitter: The Baltimore Orioles haven’t won a road game since John Means’ nine-inning no-hitter on May 5 in Seattle, dropping 19 in a row.
The Arizona Diamondbacks haven’t won a road game since Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter on May 25 against Atlanta, losing an MLB-record 23 in a row.
► You think Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper hates the role of villain on the road just about everywhere he goes?
“I love the boos and the hate a little bit,” Harper says. “I’ve been hearing it since I was 12 or 13 years old, so it’s kind of normal. That’s sports. That’s fan bases.
► Cool moment for Dodgers outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who hadn’t been back in uniform at Chase Field since he slipped on home plate and tore three ligaments in his left knee in a spring-training game March 25, 2019.
So what does he do? He homers Friday night in his first game back, screams, and tried not to cry when his foot hit home plate.
“The last moment that I had here wasn’t a great one,” Souza said. “So I was more fired up that I could kind of erase that and put that really in the past and celebrate this one.”
► Just in case you were wondering, 1906 was the last time the Cubs and White Sox played against one another in the World Series.
Both Chicago teams are in first place.
► Still hard to fathom that New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom has driven in seven runs at the plate, and given up just four earned runs on the mound.
► The Toronto Blue Jays don’t expect to be permitted to play a home game in Toronto until 2022.
“When we finally get back to Toronto,’’ Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro says, “you’re going to have a team that any adversity or any tough times we experience are going to pale in comparison to what we’re having to go through over the past two seasons.”
► So much for superstition. Cubs shortstop Javy Baez has saved for his own memorabilia every bat he has used to hit a homer, never using the same bat again.
► The Giants, the second-fastest team to hit 100 home runs, are on pace to hit a whopping 235 homers this year.
How staggering is the homer number considering they play 81 home games in the most pitching-friendly ballpark in the majors?
The franchise record is 235, set in 2001, with 73 of those homers coming from Barry Bonds.
It’s also the last time they hit 200 homers in a season.
► While all eyes have been on deGrom this year, Walker Buehler of the Dodgers hasn’t lost a game in is past 29 starts, dating back to Sept. 21, 2019.
He entered Saturday’s game having pitched at least six innings in each of his first 13 starts, allowing two or fewer runs in 10 of the starts.
Oh, and he’s doing it by sheer pitching, with just one double-digit strikeout game this season.
► Nothing like giving up homers to royalty, well, at least the sons and grandsons of royalty.
Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta has given up five of his last 16 homers to the sons or grandsons of Hall of Famers and All-Stars:
Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero
Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Fame Craig Biggio
Bo Bichette, son of All-Star outfielder Dante Bichette
Adalberto Mondesi, son of All-Star outfielder Raul Mondesi.
► Can you imagine how good the Brewers could be if they actually had any offense?
They’re hanging with the Chicago Cubs despite a pathetic slash line of .208/.298/.365 with a .600 OPS.
Their slash line ranking: last/ 28th/29th, 29th OPS.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Father of Dodgers’ Andrew Toles, who is mentally ill, prays for son