Root For Touki. A Good Story.
What happened to 'Rat Poison' Nick? And quitting, Dabo?
Two years ago I talked to Touki Toussaint, the Braves’ right-handed pitcher, about the game in Asheville, N.C., on July 26, 2015 when he walked off the mound after giving up nine runs and four home runs in 3 1/3 innings….
…and was ready to quit.
It was a Class A game and Touki was 19 years old. A first-round pick, he had been acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks the year before. He had a big arm, sensational curveball, charisma…
…and he wanted to chuck it all.
Touki called his mother, Kahaso Kiti, in Coral Springs, Fla., to tell her it was time for him to find another line of work.
The self-pity was made to go away very quickly.
“If you quit,” Kiti told her son, “don’t come back here.”
Toussaint’s mother was furious with him for his lack of resilience. Kiti has roots in Haiti where opportunity is hard to come by because of geography (earthquakes, hurricanes) or politics (dictators, assassinations). Haitians, she said, do not waste opportunity.
Kahaso, she said, means “bittersweet medicine.” Her son had to learn to take his medicine, bitter with the sweet.
Toussaint, 25, has regrouped mentally. Struggling to find himself for the Braves the last three years—remember he was on the 2019 playoff roster—he made his 2021 debut on Tuesday against a very good offense of the San Diego Padres. He gave up one run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“Baseball is 90 percent mental,” Toussaint said. “The mental aspect is what separates guys.”
Has he conquered the mental? We’ll see.
Touki told me he had another crisis of confidence when he was 10 years old in south Florida. He started the season with two hits and then struck out 22 straight times. “I was thinking ‘this is too hard’ I’m going back to soccer, I always did well at soccer,” he said. Touki quit baseball for a year.
Toussaint’s best friend, Devon Crocker, an accomplished baseball player, then made a bet with Touki. If he would come back to baseball, Devon would play soccer. Toussaint came back to baseball when he was 12. Five years later MLB.com rated him the No. 8 pitcher of the Class of 2014.
The Braves need Touissaint to show all the steel he can this second half of the season, whether it is as a starter or reliever. The Braves still have a chance to win the division and advance deep in the playoffs without Ronald Acuna, Jr. They need stellar pitching.
If you don’t think the Braves can win with pitching and without a star slugger, just look at The Washington Nationals. The season after the Nats lost their superstar Bryce Harper they won the World Series.
Hey coach, didn’t you say…
First Nick Saban.
He said several years ago—and I was in the room—that the media could create “rat poison” for a team by building up players. He said we were a threat to the chemistry he was trying to achieve for his team. Make one guy too big and everything is at risk. Nick said what we wrote was “rat poison.”
This week, the build-up around his quarterback Bryce Young, who was a back-up in 2020, is such that Young has close to $1 million in endorsement deals before even getting on the field.
The NCAA finally relented in the face of government pressure and will allow college players to make money off their fame. Saban took some credit for Young’s bonanza by saying the Alabama brand had made the kid famous. It wasn’t rat poison. It was Bama being Bama.
I wasn’t at SEC Media Days this week for the first time in years, but I would have asked Nick, “Coach, is your Quarterback’s $1 million potentially rat poison.”
At least now Young can buy steak dinners for his offensive linemen instead of having a booster pick up the tab, or have a friendly cafe take care of it.
And now you Dabo.
The Clemson coach said this a while back:
“We try to teach our guys, use football to create the opportunities, take advantage of the platform and the brand and the marketing you have available to you. But as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that’s where you lose me. I’ll go do something else, because there’s enough entitlement in this world as it is.”
He said it. There’s no denying he said it.
Dabo is denying he said it. In interviews this week he said he was never against Name Image Likeness, or college players making money off their fame. Yes, he was.
The test, though, is whether Dabo’s rash declaration hurt recruiting and from the looks of Clemson’s squad, maybe not so much.
No one can blame players for making what they can. The schools now want to expand the College Football Playoff to 12 teams when there are realistically just five or six teams that can compete for the title every season. The expansion is about the money.
Clemson’s players, according to Swinney, are against the idea of a 12-team playoff.
Well, he says they are. We’ll see in a couple of seasons when Clemson has three losses because of injuries or bad luck and the Tigers need to sneak into the 12-team field. What will he say then?