Todd had done his best to prepare for the change from machine pitch to kid pitch. Unlike his Angel teammates, who seemed perfectly content to enjoy the luxury of their “blue friend” until someone dragged it off the field, Todd made it a point to spend at least a little time each day practicing hitting live pitches from his dad. In fact, I often arrived at the games to find Todd, his dad and a large paint bucket full of balls already hard at work in the batting cage, and on more than one occasion, the three of them were back in the cage even before I had finished packing up the gear from the Angels’ dugout to make room for the next game to start.
From what I could see, things seemed to be going well. Consequently, even though Todd struggled quite a bit with his teammates’ pitching during the first few practices, neither he nor the Angels became overly concerned.
However, as Todd’s struggles continued and the first two games of the second half of the season came and went without his getting a hit, he began to get frustrated and discouraged. Todd’s frustration and discouragement only increased as the Angels began to slowly slide down in the standings and the pressure from his Angel teammates, many of whom had quickly adapted to the new form of pitching, continued to mount. By the fourth game of the second half, Todd had yet to record his first hit off of live pitching.
At my insistence, his teammates, some of whom, like Chris Anderson and Doug Johnson, had become Todd’s closest friends, did their best to be supportive. But when Todd struck out with runners on first and third and the Angels down by only a run to the second place Cardinals to end game five, all of the Angels, including Chris and Doug, began to taunt and poke fun at their friend and first-half hero. Todd had had enough.