By Blair Lovern
January 24, 2002
Devil Rays’ outfield prospect Greg “Toe” Nash could be facing the end of his baseball career before it ever really got off the ground.
Nash, 19, was arrested Tuesday in Louisiana and charged with aggravated rape, aggravated crime against nature and felony theft (in a second, unrelated case). He was taken to the Ascension Parish Jail and is being held on a $300,000 bond.
If convicted of the aggravated rape charge, Nash faces a mandatory life prison sentence.
District attorney Tony Falterman said Nash was one of three suspects in a home break-in, which eventually led police to arrest him in connection with the sexual assault.
Police responded to a complaint that someone stole a jug half-filled with coins, a pistol, a fire safe and an alarm clock from a house in Donaldsonville, La., on Monday. Some of the stolen property was found that day at a house in St. Amant, La.
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that while being questioned by police, a 15-year-old girl said Nash and two other men brought the stolen property to her house. The girl also told police that Nash and Dalacy Bureau, 19, had sexually assaulted her early Monday morning.
Beginning in March 2000, Nash had been arrested five times in 10 months, but he entered a pretrial prevention program and was put on probation so he could begin his baseball career. Those charges could be made active again, Falterman said. “But they really pale in comparison to the rape charge.”
Falterman said Nash had been in California working toward his GED diploma. Former major leaguer Harold Reynolds had befriended Nash and offered him a chance to stay at his Los Angeles home after the 2001 season. Falterman said Nash was back in Louisiana to have knee surgery.
“He was under very strict probation terms, to which he was complying,” he said. “He did everything he was supposed to do. And then he had just come back to Louisiana and ran around with the wrong people.
“We’re looking at very long prison sentences and he’s facing some serious time. If he’s convicted, then when he gets out he may be able to watch baseball, but I don’t think he’ll be able to play it.”
Nash played last season for the Rookie-level Princeton Devil Rays, where he hit .240-8-29 in 171 at-bats. At the time, manager Edwin Rodriguez called Nash a model player.
“He’s very polite, very well mannered,” Rodriguez said. “He’s everything you can ever ask for in a player. I’ve had a pretty honest conversation with him. I said I was going to keep an eye on him on the field and off the field. I said he’s going to have to listen to me and concentrate on baseball.
“Even when he’s not playing, he’s into the game. He’s been great to work with, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Steve Henderson, minor league hitting coordinator for the Devil Rays, worked with Nash last year and said he was shocked to hear about the arrest.
“He was a good kid, he did everything we asked him to do. We never had a problem with him,” he said.
Falterman said he was trying to give Nash a break when he agreed to put him on probation.
“The whole community wanted to help the kid,” he said. “People were saying he needs a chance, he comes from a broken home, he’s very poor. It was another side of the tracks situation.
“Last year I was getting letters from his manager, from his agent and everyone who was keeping track of him. He was doing everything he was supposed to be doing.”
Nash attracted attention before the 2001 season after ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons told the world his story in one of his columns, one of his most-read ever. Afterward, legend took over with Nash sometimes described as a real-life Sidd Finch.
“They shouldn’t have had all that about me like Babe Ruth and stuff,” Nash said last season. “Mark McGwire and all that? I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Benny Latino, a scout for the Devil Rays, first saw Nash in Little League and years later tracked him down in a semi-pro league near Sorrento, La., about 50 miles west of New Orleans. Nash signed a $30,000 contract before the 2001 season and was scheduled to play with Class A Charleston this year.