Once part of the young and emerging outfield known as the “soul patrol” along with Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones, Matt Lawton seemed to have a bright future and career ahead of him as an outfielder for the Minnesota Twins; but things never materialized like Lawton or the Twins could have predicted. Lawton spent the better part of seven seasons with the Twins before being traded to the New York Mets in 2001 in a trade deadline trade for pitcher Rick Reed. During his time with the Twins, Lawton made one All-Star appearance, in 2000, and accumulated career numbers of a .277 batting average with 739 hits, 72 HR, 384 RBI, a .379 OBP and 96 stolen bases in 771 career games.
After the Twins traded Lawton, Lawton’s production and potential began a gradual decline that ended with his retirement following the 2006 season. Lawton did make one more All-Star appearance in 2004 with Cleveland, but never put up the type of consistent numbers that he did during his tenure with the Twins. For his career, Lawton ended up with 1,273 hits, a .267 batting average, 138 HR and 631 RBI over 1,334 career games. While those are respectable career numbers, based off the career trajectory of Lawton when he was with the Twins, some may see his career totals as underwhelming. However, few would rate his post-career life as anything close to “fulfilling his potential”.
In August 2005, while he was still playing in the majors with the New York Yankees, Lawton tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. At the time, Lawton was only suspended 10 days during the 2006 season. After the test results were made public, Lawton told The Associated Press, “I made a terrible and foolish mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life.” Unfortunately for Lawton, the suspension from baseball was only the start of bad things to come. Seven years after he retired, Lawton would yet again make a decision that he may end up regretting for the rest of his life.
On April 11 of this year, Lawton was arrested by police in Harrison County, Mississippi and remained in custody a week later with no bond. Since the reporting of this case, no further information has been given regarding Lawton’s criminal status. The case was being heard in a court that handles family disputes, child support, and child custody issues so it is safe to assume that the arrest was made due to a family matter. Lawton does have two children, one boy and one girl, who both are under the age of 21.
This is a troubling end to what once appeared to be a promising career for Lawton. One has to wonder what kind of crime that Lawton committed or what could have provoked him into committing such a crime, especially involving his family. Athletes are human and they do make mistakes, but it remains unfortunate that one of the players we watched turn around the fortune of the Twins in the late 1990s and early 2000s has made such poor decisions in his post-career life.
We often like to pedestalize athletes for being part of a great turnaround or performing well for our favorite team or organization, but there is no rationalizing or justifying criminal actions whether it is before, during or after an athlete is in the media limelight. Sometimes, athletes do not know how to adjust to life after sports or how to live life without the spotlight. Lawton wouldn’t seem like a logical candidate to fall into this category, but he has succumbed to some of the many problems that athletes seem to run into after their careers are over.
Now I’m not trying saying that athletes are the only type of people that succumb to crime and domestic problems, but it is alarming to see the number of times a former professional athlete has a run-in with the law. The reason we hear so much about these problems is likely due to the fact that they are the focus of media attention even after they retire and thus, we still hear about them when they make a mistake.
I sincerely hope that this is lowest point that Lawton and his family must endure during Lawton’s post-career life. Hopefully, for Lawton and his family, they can move on from this incident and come away from it better people and a stronger family.