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Film praises Bert Blyleven’s son for role in Route 91 tragedy

It used to be that Todd Blyleven was best known for being the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven. As the bat boy during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ “We Are Family” years, he would take adhesive gold stars from Willie Stargell’s locker and distribute them to other Pirates to stick on their flat-top caps.

That changed on Oct. 1, 2017, at the deadly Route 91 Harvest festival diagonally across the street from Mandalay Bay. When shots rang out, Blyleven sprung into action. He attended to the fallen and led others to safety by putting his life on the line.

He didn’t ask for a gold star. He certainly deserves one.

The MLB Network on Monday will debut a short film called “Todd Blyleven: A Life Changed” that recalls his heroic actions. It begins with Blyleven alluding to his failure to follow in his father’s footsteps — he made it only as far as Double-A in the minor leagues — and the baseball credo that “you battle through things, you get over things.”

Of that fateful night, “I said ‘Dad, this isn’t something you just get over.’”

The film shows 48-year-old Blyleven dancing with his niece at the festival. “My wife’s there and it was just pure joy and happiness …”

Until it wasn’t.

“We started to hear some crackling noises …”

After shepherding his wife, Cathie, and their group to a safe spot, Blyleven ran back into the carnage. He led the frantic in the crosshairs of the shooter to a gate behind vending trucks that led to sanctuary. He came upon several of the victims, felt for pulses. He threw one over his shoulder, carried her to a taxi.

“She didn’t make it …”

Rachael Parker died the next day at the hospital. She was 33.

Blyleven sought counseling after the harrowing experience. But he said it brought him and Cathie, whose marriage had been struggling, closer together. Same for he and his famous father.

As the narrator in the film says, on the baseball field, Todd Blyleven had failed to meet expectations that came with his last name. But on a killing field in Las Vegas, he had been a hero.

Around the horn

— Dan Kalish, a Seattle employment lawyer who specializes in college football coaching contracts, ranks UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo’s 97th among the 130 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision coaches based on length of contract, yearly compensation, bonus opportunities, buyout and golden parachute provisions, perks, academic performance and off-the-field responsibilities.

Arroyo’s yearly salary is $340,000 — third-richest in the Mountain West Conference at the time he was hired. Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney, No. 1 on Kalish’s list, makes only $245,000 in yearly average salary but has lucrative bonuses built into his contract that would make Bill Gates blush.

— In another list, UNLV’s 1990 basketball team was ranked No. 28 among the 81 NCAA men’s basketball champions by Stadium Talk which said: “If you blinked, the Rebels might have scored four points already. They reached triple figures no fewer than 16 times.”

The website pegged the undefeated 1971-72 UCLA Bruins as its greatest NCAA title team.

One-liners

Chris Bassitt, the A’s pitcher who was struck in the face with a line drive against the White Sox Tuesday and suffered a fractured cheek bone that will require surgery, briefly pitched for the Aviators in 2019. … Bryce Young, this season’s Alabama starting quarterback, threw four touchdown passes in California Mater Dei’s 42-0 victory over Bishop Gorman in 2018. … Since being traded, Bonanza High’s Kris Bryant is batting .277 with three homers and eight RBIs in 65 at-bats for the Giants and Gorman’s Joey Gallo .152 with four homers and eight RBIs in 79 at-bats for the Yankees.

0:01

Last week in commenting on Joe Buck’s performance as guest host, “Jeopardy!” phenom James Holzhauer of Las Vegas wrote on Twitter that “Jeopardy says whoever hosts full time will have to quit their other job, so I’m crossing my fingers it’s Joe Buck.”

This week, the ubiquitous Fox sports broadcaster fired back on a Sports Illustrated podcast: “I don’t know who he roots for. I don’t know where he’s from. So … moved on to the next 3-year-old’s diaper I had to change.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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