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Column: Toussaint Bythewood looks to expand starring role at Harvard-Westlake

Toussaint Bythewood of Harvard-Westlake poses for a photo in the locker room.
Toussaint Bythewood of Harvard-Westlake is the reigning Mission League player of the year.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)
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When your parents are film directors and volunteer to help put together a sports highlight video, you don’t just say, “Yes.”

You scream, “Yes!”

Toussaint Bythewood of Studio City Harvard-Westlake High only needed to supply the baseball highlights for the adults in the room to create a masterpiece.

“I always see my parents on the sideline filming with good angles,” he said of his mother, Gina Prince Bythewood, and his father, Reggie Rock Bythewood.

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Bythewood needs no highlight video after what he accomplished in 2021 as a junior. The reigning Mission League player of the year batted .431 with 10 stolen bases to help Harvard-Westlake finish 29-4 and win the Southern Section Division 1 championship.

What’s most intriguing is how Bythewood seemingly came out of nowhere to make such a huge contribution and continues to develop into what could be a surprise pro prospect in his senior year.

Servite football star Zion Sims stepped out of his comfort zone in high school. Now he’s ready to attend West Point and do the same with Army.

“Everything is above average,” coach Jared Halpert said of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound center fielder. “He has exceptional hand-eye coordination, is an exceptional athlete, has above average speed. His power is going through the roof as he’s maturing and packing on more pounds.”

He didn’t make his first varsity start until April 7 last year because of an injury. As a freshman, he played junior varsity. As a sophomore, he was a pinch-runner and backup center fielder. His profile couldn’t have been any lower. And yet, after being the No. 9 batter in the lineup, he’s going to be the Wolverines’ No. 3 hitter this season after proving his ability.

“There was a lot of patience,” Bythewood said. “I won’t lie, me and my other teammates who weren’t playing were getting a bit antsy and that antsiness drove me to capitalize on every opportunity I would have because I wasn’t going to get many.”

Bythewood took a major leap in ability, enabling him to commit to UCLA, the alma mater of his mother, and there could be another big jump coming this spring. He’s never hit a home run in high school and that could change rather quickly.

“Last year, I had a lot of what I’ll say was BP power,” he said. “I just couldn’t get it to activate during games. I got bigger, stronger, ate more food. My hands got a lot quicker.”

Bythewood started playing baseball at 4. At first, he wasn’t a big fan of the sport because he didn’t like standing in the outfield in the sun. By high school, he made the decision to play baseball instead of football. At this point, he‘s thrilled to wake up and only focus on playing baseball every day.

“It’s pretty amazing he’s made the strides he’s had,” Halpert said. “He’s a learner, he’s a worker.”

Born in 2004, Bythewood said he’s gotten small cameo parts in his parents’ films through the years.

“It’s really cool when I get to see myself on the big screen,” he said. “Pretty surreal.”

As a Black baseball player, Bythewood said he understands the example he could set in helping more Black teenagers choose the sport to excel in.

“I definitely want to be part of that rebirth,” he said. “If I were able to get a large platform, I’d be able to help other Black players younger than me try to get them into the sport.”

And if he ever needs someone behind the camera to film a public service announcement, he knows who to turn to — Mom or Dad.

Now, if only teammates will stop asking, “When are you going to put me in a film?”

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