The Washington Post's early report on the shooting in Las Vegas takes note of the valiant conduct of Todd Blyleven, who was at the concert with relatives. Todd now works in sports marketing and is living with his family in Frisco, Texas.
Todd is Bert Blyleven's son and a former scout and minor league pitcher. He pitched five seasons in the minors, finishing in 1997 with a Brewers farm club in the California League. Todd was with Sioux City in the Northern League for most of the 1995 season, and I went there to interview him for this column that appeared in the Star Tribune on May 28, 1995:
SIOUX CITY, IOWA --Bert Blyleven departed from the Twins under unhappy circumstances in the middle of the 1976 season. He returned in the middle of the 1985 season, delighted to be away from Cleveland and back with the Twins. In Minnesota, Blyleven was involved in his second World Series championship and then departed after the 1988 season.
Blyleven was 19 when the Twins brought him to the major leagues as a starter in 1970. He pitched for 22 seasons - Minnesota, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minnesota again and then California – and finished with 287 victories and 3,701 strikeouts. Blyleven recorded 149 victories and 2,035 strikeouts during his 10 seasons with the Twins.
"I don't think there is any doubt," Todd Blyleven said. "If my dad gets elected to the Hall of Fame, he will want a Twins cap on the plaque. Minnesota was his favorite place ..."
In the mid-'80s, the sons of several players and coaches had uniforms hanging in their fathers' lockers at the Metrodome. The kids would get dressed in the big-league clubhouse, then shag flies, play catch and take a few swings during early batting practice.
The unforgettable kid in this group was Todd Blyleven. He was the Shaquille O'Neal of 13-year-olds, 6-feet-3 and husky, towering over the other lads and much of the Twins' roster.
Dick Such did some work with Todd in the bullpen. Frank Viola taught the circle changeup to Todd, the same changeup that Viola had learned from Johnny Podres. It was Todd's intention to follow his father and become a big-league pitcher.
That desire went all the way back to Pittsburgh, to 1979, when Blyleven was part of the Pirates' team that came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Baltimore in the World Series.
"I was 7 and those were my first memories of baseball," Todd said. "That was the `We Are Family' team. It was so great, watching my dad pitch in that World Series, against Jim Palmer."
Todd Blyleven was sitting in the dugout at Lewis & Clark Stadium last week. It was more than 4 hours before game time and Blyleven was wearing a Windbreaker, shorts and sneakers, getting ready to put in numerous laps around the warning track.
"I get to the ballpark early," Todd said. "I work in the weight room. I do a lot of running. I learned all those things from my dad."
Todd was released two weeks ago by the Angels organization. Within hours, he had been contacted by a dozen teams in the independent leagues that are exploding around the country.
"The people I talked to said this [Northern] was the best of these leagues," Blyleven said. "Plus, the owners of this franchise also own the Angels' farm club in Boise, where I pitched last season. They knew I could pitch."
The Blylevens come from Orange County in southern California. Todd went to Mater Dei High until his junior year, then transferred to Villa Park. He was drafted by the Angels in the 32nd round out of high school.
The Blylevens - Todd and Bert - had a game plan. Todd would go to Cal State-Fullerton to play for Larry Cochell and pitching coach Vern Ruhle, a longtime major leaguer. "I thought Todd would benefit from working with Vern Ruhle for three years," Bert said.
Soon, the Blylevens discovered that would not happen at Fullerton. Cochell and Ruhle left for Oklahoma. Todd followed. "Oklahoma wasn't my idea of what college was supposed to be," Todd said.
He returned home and went to Cypress Junior College. He was drafted again, this time late by the Dodgers, but stayed at Cypress and had two solid seasons. Then Blyleven signed as a free agent with the Angels organization after not being selected in the 1993 draft.
Bert was 19 when manager Bill Rigney convinced Calvin Griffith to let him bring Blyleven to the big leagues in May 1970. Todd was 20 when he started in professional baseball in June 1993 in the Arizona rookie league.
"My dad was gifted," Todd said. "He was tall and skinny - that's not the way he ended up, but he was skinny - and had a great, loose arm. I don't have that type of talent. I'm the type of pitcher who has to find ways to get the hitters out."
From his days in youth baseball, Todd heard the cry from the stands: "Let's see the hook, Blyleven." Always, people wanted to see if this big kid had the old man's curveball.
Mike Radcliff, the scouting director for the Twins, had the simple answer: "No one ever had that curveball, except Bert."
Todd's numbers were decent during his first two summers in the California organization. This spring, the Angels put him in the bullpen at Class AA.
"I'm a starter, a pitcher who has to establish three pitches - fastball, curve and changeup - to be effective," Todd said.
He was sent back to Class A Lake Elsinore, to the bullpen, and then was released. He arrived home on a Saturday.
"He had gone to almost a no-windup approach in recent years and he had some success," Bert said. "It was a Rick Reuschel or Billy Swift-type windup, but without the sinker. I caught him for a while and said, `You're easy to catch. That means I'm seeing the ball well. And, if it's easy for me to see the ball, it's going to be easy for the hitters.'
"When he went with an over-the-head windup, with a leg kick, there was more movement and the ball was harder to see. It's a delivery that gives Todd a chance to use his size and his strength."
When Bert Blyleven was 22, he was in the middle of a season with the Twins in which he went 20-17 in 40 starts, with a 2.52 ERA in 325 innings. Todd Blyleven is 22 and at Sioux City, on the outskirts of professional baseball.
Depressed? No chance. "I'm excited about the way my fastball is moving and about the snap on the curve with this delivery," Todd said. "Lee Stange is here, and he was my dad's pitching coach in 1975. Oil Can Boyd is here, and he spends a lot of time talking to the younger pitchers. A young pitcher couldn't ask for a better situation.
"I used to have a picture of a Clydesdale hanging in my locker, to remind me that's the type of pitcher I am - a workhorse. Then they put me in the bullpen. I was more like a cocker spaniel. Now, I'm a starter again. I'm going to dig out that picture and hang it in my locker again."