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Angels give and receive good wishes

March 3, 2011 | 10:10 am

Angels Angel pitching coach Mike Butcher, who had a cancerous nodule on his thyroid gland removed last month, said Thursday that he's been touched by the outpouring of public support he has received since his condition became publicly known.

"I appreciate it," said Butcher, who reported to camp wearing a soft brace around his neck to protect the area following surgery. "There’s certain things you can’t hide in this game. And me walking around with a doughnut around my neck, I can’t hide."

Doctors believe they got most of the cancer and Butcher, who no longer wears the brace, has been given a clean bill of health.

"It was very nice that people took time and wrote a little note or a card. It was more like reassurance that they had gone through he same thing and they were fine," said Butcher, who had a pile of mail waiting for him when he reported to work Thursday. "Very kind gestures."

And speaking of kind gestures, Thursday was the day for the Angels' annual toy drive, with players collecting more than 100 toys, most of which will be donated to children at a Tempe, Ariz.-area shelter.

Early in spring training, Manager Mike Scioscia and the coaching staff assign young players tasks they must complete each day as part of the bonding process. Over the years players have been sent to amusement parks, gymnastics competitions, fairs and other events, then ordered to report back to the team with what they found. Most of the time the presentations are funnier than just about anything you'll see on Comedy Central.

The toy drive is different. A group of young players collects money from the team’s veterans, then go shopping for toys. For the last seven springs, veteran outfielder Reggie Willits has overseen the effort and this year the group had more than $4,500 to spend.

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

Photo: Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times