- May 14, 2023: Decades ago, Mookie Betts’ mom, Diana Benedict, started her own Little League team because the coaches of other squads said her son was “too small” to play. Now, Betts is one of the biggest stars in the sport.
With Benedict in attendance for Mother’s Day at Dodger Stadium, Betts showed off his level of stardom once again, hitting a key two-run homer to help the Dodgers complete a three-game sweep of the Padres with a 4-0 win.
As Betts crossed home plate, he blew a kiss to his mother in the stands. With her usual enthusiasm and energy, Benedict responded by dancing and even spreading both her arms open, a celebration the Dodgers have used at times this season.
“I remember going back to summer ball and she was always there,” Betts said postgame. “She’s always cheering and supporting and I can hear her when I’m going up to the batter’s box. Nothing’s changed and I’m just glad to have an amazing mom.” (J Toribio - MLB.com - May 114, 2023)
|DOB:||10/7/1992||Agent:||The Legacy Agency|
|Birth City:||Brentwood, TN|
|Draft:||Red Sox #5 - 2011 - Out of high school (TN)|
Betts starred in both baseball and basketball in high school. And he was a star in another activity, too. That was bowling, a sport for which he was named the best in Tennessee in 2010. "I guess since playing basketball, being aggressive all the time, and bowling, sitting down waiting, I guess it kind of mixes together in baseball and it comes natural,” Betts said with a nod to the “selective aggressive” hitting philosophy the Red Sox encourage.
In 2011, his senior year at Overton High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, Mookie was committed to the University of Tennessee.
In 2011, Mookie got drafted by the Red Sox (see Transactions below).
In 2013, Baseball America had Betts as the 31st-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. They had him up at 7th-best in the winter before 2014 spring training.
Mookie's mother: One of the first times Red Sox scout Danny Watkins sat down to have a long conversation with Betts, it was at breakfast with him and his mother, Diana. He could tell right away how close they were.
“She’s a very strong-minded woman, and I could tell that Mookie was very, very respectful of her,” Watkins said.
Watkins also got a subtle clue about what path Diana wanted her son to take. “His mother told me that they had named him Markus Lynn Betts because she wanted his initials to be ‘MLB,’” Watkins said.
The night before Diana gave birth to her son, she was in a bowling alley. It was a league night. She practically grew up on the lanes.
“I bowled up until the time he was born,” Diana said. “He’s been in the bowling alley all his life.”
At age 3, when Mookie was able to push a bowling ball, Diana put the bumpers up and gave him his start. At 4, when he was able to put his fingers inside the ball and actually roll it, she took the bumpers down.
“We saw that he was actually aiming for a certain spot on the bumper and I’m like, ‘If you’re that smart, that you can aim for a certain spot and hit a certain target, you can roll a ball all the way down the lane,’” she said.
Competitiveness was hereditary in the family. Diana played softball in high school. She was a middle infielder and she raised her son to be one, too. When Mookie was young, she was his first Little League coach. She never showed favoritism, and she made sure he never looked down on any other player.
“I always try to tell him to ask questions, be patient with people, and do your best,” she said.
Mookie's uncle is Terry Shumpert, a former Major Leaguer whose 14-year career included years with the Rockies and Royals, and one season with the Red Sox (1995).
“Mookie was able to see a ton then,” Shumpert said. “He was in the locker room after batting practice, see how the guys act, see how the guys work. He was old enough to be able to pick it up and see how those guys and myself come to work every day and prepare.”
On his father’s side there’s George Wilson, a three-year starter at wide receiver for the University of Arkansas and a safety for 10 years in the NFL, primarily for the Buffalo Bills.
That, Betts says, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“My dad’s side is full of athletes,” said Betts, who can dunk a basketball and is also a fine bowler. “I don’t think any of them played professionally, but if you go out and shoot basketball with them, you’d wonder why they never made it. I come from a background full of athletes.”
The Red Sox were in desperate need of some energy, not to mention some offense. And that had something to do with adding their hottest prospect to the roster on June 28, 2014.
But manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington both made it clear that Betts fully earned his first trip to the Major Leagues and he's here because he's ready, not just because the team was faltering.
"Really, it was mostly about Mookie," said Cherington. "When a guy is performing at the level and doing it the way he's doing it and controlling the strike zone and performing in all different areas of the game, that kind of guy deserves consideration. We happen to have a need for as many good players as we can get, particularly guys that can move around positions, cover different spots. We talked about it for probably two or three days and just decided it was the right time."
The place happened to be Yankee Stadium, where he made his first Major League start.
"Last night, I was in my hotel room," said Mookie. "Me and my fiancé had just ordered pizza, and were going to go into the hotel. Then [Triple-A Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles] called me and told me to come back to the field, told me he had something to tell me," Betts said. "He didn't want to do it over the phone. Once I got there, he let me know, and the rest is history." (Ian Browne MLB.com, 6/28/2014)
Mookie and his fiancée, Brianna, have been together since middle school. They were engaged in December 2013.
The first ball Mookie launched out of a big league stadium will eventually go to his mom, like the ball he grounded up the middle against the Yankees for his first career hit on May 29, 2014. But for now, Betts joked that he has a little while to stare at it until he turns it over to his family and never sees it again.
Luckily, he didn't have to do much work to retrieve the home run ball from the fan who caught it. "No, actually, I played against him in high school, the guy, I found out," Betts said at Fenway. "So he said as soon as he got it, he wanted to find a way to get it to me, and I really appreciated that."
Betts ripped a two-run shot into the Green Monster seats in the bottom of the fifth inning against Cubs righthander Carlos Villanueva for his first career dinger.
Chris Large, who caught Betts's homer, is from Cookeville, Tenn., just a few miles from where Betts grew up. Large pitched against Mookie in summer ball a few years ago. Betts gave him a pair of autographed baseballs and a took a picture with Large following the exchange.
Large said he and his sister, Lindsey, joked about Betts hitting a home run toward them, and added that she predicted it during the at-bat. When Betts took that swing, Large quickly reached for the glove he had under his seat. The ball sailed over his head, bounced off something (a person, a seat, Large didn't know) and landed right in his lap.
"We were kind of freaking out," said Large, who looked for stadium personnel to give the ball to. "We didn't really know how to react." (Petrella - mlb.com - 7/2/14)
July 2014: When Shane Victorino came off the D.L. for the Red Sox, Mookie was sent back to Triple-A to round out his development. As it was, it was a bit of a quick ascent to the Majors for Betts, who rocketed through the farm system after being drafted out of high school in 2014.
"I thought he managed his at-bats well," manager John Farrell said. "I thought he showed very good presence or at least composure for a guy who has flown through our system. He's a work in progress defensively, particularly in the outfield. And he'll continue to get exposure in center and in right field at Pawtucket while also playing some second base, so that's the plan going forward for him defensively."
The Red Sox are still keeping an open mind about where Betts will settle in defensively. He played exclusively in the outfield in his first stint in the Majors.
"I don't know that there's a clear-cut answer to that right now," Farrell said. "There's going to be a number of things that contribute to that final positioning: How the bat plays, how he further develops defensively, is he a guy that potentially moves around to a number of positions? I wouldn't rule that out. But to sit here today and say that Mookie is going to be at this position for the next 10 years, I don't have that answer in my crystal ball." (Ian Brown - MLB.com - 7/20/2014)
Betts simply couldn't help himself; he had to say something. When it came to manager John Farrell's apparel.
"Skip," he told Farrell, "you need to update, man."
So the sensational 2015 Spring Training output is only one element of Betts' spring story. Away from the field, he's paid particular attention to his boss's wardrobe. He's encouraged trips to a nearby outlet mall and all but written out a shopping list for his skipper.
And while Farrell has stopped short of purchasing the pink or white jeans that Betts was pushing, he did buy a pair that gravitated away from the traditional blue for a more modern shade.
"I told him he's the manager of the Boston Red Sox," Betts said with a smile, "so he should have the most swag out of everyone. He's got some jeans now that he's been wearing that look pretty good," Betts said of his skipper. "So I've just got to get him some shirts and some shoes. He looks out for me, so I've got to look out for him." The baseball world better look out for Mookie Betts. (Castrovince - mlb.com - 3/23/15)
May 8, 2015: Betts was probably 7 or 8 years old when he forced his first coach into retirement. As the young boy, he scalded a line drive up the middle in a coach-pitch game. Diana Benedict—Mookie's mother—ducked for cover.
"It was hard," said Benedict. "I said, 'Oh, my god. I need to get out of the way of this.' It was a rocket. I said, 'It's time for me to get out of here. My reflexes are not what they used to be.'"Perhaps the real issue was that Diana taught her son too well. She grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, and her grandfather built a baseball diamond at his farm.
"There wasn't much else to do," laughs Diana. "So we played baseball and softball all the time."
Not surprisingly, Diana would turn into a softball star and was also in the middle of a family of sports nuts.
"She was my first coach," said Betts. "She would go out and throw. Whatever sport it was, she would go out and play with me and I remember sometimes we used to race almost every day. She said I got to the point where I would start to beat her consistently, so she quit then. We were always doing something. I thank her for everything she's done." One thing Diana Benedict would never allow her son to do was quit.
"She didn't push me to do anything. The only thing she said was when I start something, finish it," Betts said. "One thing that stands out is when I was younger, I wanted to quit football and I talked to her and she didn't let me. I thank her for not letting me. It taught me a life lesson that once you start something, you've got to finish it. She's taught me a lot of life lessons outside of sports."
Mookie will call his parents like he does almost every day, and he'll probably find some time to reflect on the woman who has meant so much in his life.
"She's always been there for me through anything, I can think of many school projects I had to do and I would say, 'Mom, can you help me.' She would help me write a paper or make a poster. She's just been that kind of mom. No matter what, she makes sure I'm alright and I thank her for that." (I Browne - MLB.com - May 8, 2015)
Veteran Red Sox players rave about Betts’s professionalism and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Scouts love his fast hands and flair for busting it down the line on every ground ball. And he’s just a 5-foot-9, 180-pound bundle of athleticism, baseball savvy, and charisma.
Former Major Leaguer Terry Shumpert is the brother of Betts’s mother, Diana Collins, and Terry has been a profound influence in each step of his nephew’s journey. If the Boston fan base is afflicted with a case of Mookie-mania this season, Shumpert can proudly look back and say he was ahead of the curve.
In 2014, when the Red Sox summoned Betts from Triple-A Pawtucket in June and inserted him in right field at Yankee Stadium, Shumpert received a call from a baseball writer looking for insights on his nephew’s potential. He did nothing to downplay expectations.
“I told the guy, ‘Mookie Betts is going to do what Yasiel Puig did for the Dodgers two years ago,’” Shumpert recalled. “You know how L.A. was on fire and everything was ‘Puig, Puig, Puig’? I told him, ‘Mookie could have the same kind of impact.’”
Shumpert’s comparison never saw the light of day, perhaps because it seemed so outlandish to the reporter. But the more the Red Sox and baseball personnel people assess the situation, the more convinced they are that Betts can meet or exceed the hype.
Mookie is a former Tennessee state high school bowling champion with two 300 games and an 800 series on his resume. He was a skilled point guard in high school and can execute a 360-degree dunk. And when the Red Sox stuck him in center field—a position he had never played until his arrival at Double-A Portland in 2014—he looked like he had been there his whole life.
White Sox pitcher John Danks received a glimpse of Betts’s big motor and all-around abilities when they worked out together five days a week in Nashville last offseason.
“We would do conditioning, weightlifting, everything,” Danks said in spring training. “I would be huffing and puffing and purging myself, and he just kept going. He’s got speed. He can jump. That sucker is an athlete. That’s the best way to describe him: He’s as good an all-around athlete as I’ve ever seen.”
Attitude? Boston’s veterans have embraced Betts as a young player worth nurturing because he strikes just the right balance between confidence and respectfulness. If they have a minor critique, it’s that he asks too many questions.
“That’s what makes the kid special—his willingness to try and be better every day,” outfielder Shane Victorino said. “I’ll tease him and say, ‘Mookie, shut up. You don’t need to ask that. Quit trying to be perfect.’ I tell him, ‘Let who you are shine.’"
Betts' given name is Markus Lynn and he received his moniker when his mom took a shine to former Atlanta Hawks point guard Mookie Blaylock on TV. Betts has zero connection to former Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson, the erstwhile Red Sox nemesis who hit that fateful grounder between Bill Buckner’s legs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. “Nothing against Mookie Wilson, but I’m glad it’s the other one,” Betts said. “I dodged a bullet there.”
Betts brings two bowling balls with him on the road, but Shumpert has told him he might want to pick his spots so he can stay fresh for the sport that’s earning him his livelihood.
Early in 2015, teammate Shane Victorino received rave reviews from a Fenway Park parking attendant who goes by the name Paulie and squared off against Betts during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.
“Paulie is an avid bowler,” Victorino said. “And he told me, ‘Mookie is legit. He’s on a different level.’" (Jerry Crasnick - Baseball America - 5/08/15)
From the moment Betts was born—even before he was born—Diana Benedict knew her boy was special. On the night before his birth, Diana took part in one of her usual three-nights-per-week league bowling matches in Nashville. She rolled her last frame at 9:30 p.m. and went into labor at 11:00. She and Willie Mark Betts, Mookie's father, a railroad superintendent, named him Markus Lynn Betts, borrowing from Willie's middle name and her middle name but also well aware of what they hoped would be fortuitous initials: MLB.
Soon after the baby was born, Diana and her sister were watching an Atlanta Hawks game on television when the noticed an especially good performance by Mookie Blaylock. Diana's sister is named Cookie. The boy would be known as Mookie from that day on.
Diana, granddaughter of a sharecropper, grew up playing baseball and softball on a Paducah, KY., field built by her grandpa. "I didn't know anything about ribbons and lace," she said. Willie ran track and played basketball. Diana's brother, Terry Shumpert, played parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues. One of Mookie's cousins, George Wilson, played safety for nine seasons in the NFL. The boy would become a whiz at baseball, basketball, bowling and asking questions.
Diana and Willie separated when Mookie was eight years old, though Willie has maintained a constant and close influence in his son's life. "He was the whole family's child," says Shumpert, who talks or texts with Betts every day.
In 2004, Shumpert went to spring training with Boston, but when he strained a hamstring and saw he wasn't going to make the team, he asked for his release. The Red Sox obliged. The Pirates offered Shumpert a roster spot with their Triple A team, the Nashville Sounds, and he jumped at the chance to live that summer with his sister in Music City. Most every day when Shumpert left for the ballpark at 2:00 p.m., he would bring with him 11-year-old Mookie and his own son, Nick, a potential first round pick in the 2015 draft. The boys shagged batting practice balls in the outfield asked question and watched how professional ballplayers worked.
'I knew one he came out he got addicted," Shumpert says, "He was watching and picking things up." (SI June 1, 2015)
For those who know Betts best—his family and friends back in Tennessee—his ascent was no surprise. Red Sox veterans laud the exciting rookie for his maturity and understanding of the game, skills that make him a franchise-type player. They're not qualities he's just discovered, though; he was born this way.
When Mookie was just a toddler, the athlete in him already itched to preform. Even the confines of his crib were too small.
"He'd always be saying, 'Ball? Ball? Ball?' that's what he always wanted to do," Diana Benedict, Betts' mother, said recently from Betts' modest townhouse on the outskirts of Nashville. "He would run everywhere. He never walked," said Mookie's father, Willie Betts. "He figured out, if you put him down, he'd start running. He would just run, run, run."
Betts lived in Murfreesboro until he was 10, when he moved with his mom to Brentwood, which borders Nashville. The brick house with white shutters where Betts grew up, sits on a residential street off a main road that runs through Brentwood.
Mookie played on multiple teams throughout his youth, but began travel baseball in earnest when he moved to the Nashville area. His father, who lived nearby, drove Betts to tournaments two or three weekends a month. On the smooth dirt infield of William Tucker Jr. Field, which sits adjacent to Overton High, Betts blended into this team seamlessly, but stood out athletically.
"You'd go play ping pong with him and he'd whip your tail in ping pong because his eye hand coordination was superior to most kids and any of us around here really," Morrison said.
At an annual high school baseball showcase at Middle Tennessee State University in June of 2010, hundreds of kids from across the state vied to impress one of the dozens of scouts on hand. The days were long in Murfreesboro, with workouts and batting practice in the morning followed by games that faded into the night. It was hot, humid and hard to stand out from the crowd.
Halfway through the afternoon, a 17-year-old rising senior darted from shortstop across the infield for a ball up the middle. He slid behind the bag, stretched out, spun and made a perfect behind-the-back glove flip to second.
In that moment, Red Sox area scout Danny Watkins knew Mookie Betts was different—he wanted to dig a little deeper. He was trained to discover this type of player.
Watkins found Betts later in the day, introduced himself and spoke with him for about 10 minutes. He'd see Betts a few more times throughout the summer at various tournaments. Betts' consistent play and demeanor further affirmed Watkins' instincts—this was a kid the Red Sox should target in the 2011 draft.
Betts has always had an innate ability to observe something and then imitate it, sometimes better than he was shown. "His dad is good at that," Mookie's mom said. "They both can pick up stuff. He can probably fix anything. They (can) just watch stuff and be able to fix a hole or repair something. It goes beyond sports."
It might be the reason why Betts can solve a Rubik's Cube in about two minutes.
Betts's parents were always around and were as much a part of the Overton scene as Betts. His father manned the gate at games and his mother worked the concession stand. 'Papa Willie,' Betts's friends' nickname for the retired CSX railroad mechanical superintendent, blew a toy train whistle after big plays, which became a staple at games.
Betts soon landed on several college coaches' radar. Tennessee and Vanderbilt were the top two that targeted him. Betts felt like he couldn't be a starter right away at perennial powerhouse Vanderbilt and eventually committed to play at a rebuilding program at Tennessee.
But the pro scouts weren't far behind as Betts batted .549 with six home runs, 37 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases as a junior. He then hit .509 with 39 RBIs and 29 stolen bases as a senior.
Enter Danny Watkins. "Every time you'd turn around, Danny was there," Diana Morrison said.
Watkins, a Red Sox area scout since 2004 covering Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and portions of the Florida panhandle, returned to the Nashville area in the fall of Betts' senior year. With the play from the previous summer still fresh in his mind, he called Betts and met the 18-year-old and his mom at a nearby Cracker Barrel to talk about going pro.
"You're talking about potentially changing or altering this kid's direction in life," Watkins said. "Since the time he was young, the thinking is high school, college, then a profession. So you're talking about giving them the chance to alter that and so you really want to focus in more on their family life, their home life, how stable has it been, how mature is this guy going to be when he gets out on his own and all of the sudden he's responsible for cleaning his own clothes and responsible for finding his own meals."
Draft day arrived and Watkins did everything he could to convince then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, director of amateur scouting Amiel Sadawye and their team of Betts's abilities. The Red Sox drafted Betts in the fifth round, 172nd overall.
"When he signed it was almost like 18 years old and overnight he had to grow up," his Mom said.
Betts's parents wanted to ensure if things didn't work out, he would be comfortable financially. Just before midnight on deadline day, Betts signed a $750,000 bonus, about $600,000 above slot.
Playing for the Lowell Spinners (NYP) was one of the few times in his athletic life that Betts struggled. He leaned heavily on his family and his three best friends Andrew Montgomery, Cameron Lewis and Brandon McPhail.
"He would call us every day morning and night," Lewis said. "Like, 'I don't know if I can get used to this, I don't know if I can do this.' That's when he really needed us."
Betts survived his first year in the pros. And after advancing to Single-A Greenville to start the 2013 season, everything changed.
Not only had he been playing in the Red Sox system for a year, but he was closer to home in Greenville, S.C.—about a five and half hour drive from Nashville. His family and friends were regularly at his games.
One night in June 2014, after he'd gone 0-for-2 with two walks in a PawSox win, Betts got a call from PawSox manager Kevin Boles just as he was returning to his apartment with pizza alongside his now-fiancée Brianna Hammonds.
"Bolesy called me and was like, 'Come back to the field,'" Betts recalled. "I was like, 'Why? Why do I need to come back?' He said, 'Hurry up and come back. I was like alright let's see what's going on. I thought I got in trouble or something. I don't know what I did." Boles gave Betts the news of his promotion.
"I kinda just looked at him. I thought I was going to be a lot more excited than I was, but I was like 'Alright,' and started packing my stuff," Betts said. "It seemed like everyone else was a lot more excited than I was. I don't know if it was because I was nervous or something. That night I didn't get a whole lot of sleep."
Betts didn't even have a fresh suit and had to go shopping in the morning before he left for New York. His parents and Brianna dropped everything and flew straight to New York the next morning.
Betts' parents and Hammonds spent five days with him. Betts made sure they saw his first hit (a single to center in the fourth inning of his first game) and homer (over the Green Monster at Fenway in his fourth game).
"I learned from my dad and my mom somebody should only have to tell you once," Betts said. "Whether it's me getting in trouble, they said I should only have to tell you once. I've kind of took that and made that for all aspects."
Betts' ability to adjust after one error impressed his manager and coaches. He was particularly hard on himself after a rookie mistake, caught stealing third base with his team behind by one run in July 2014.
"I wouldn't say it's been easy," Shane Victorino, one of Betts's biggest mentors, said of the rookie's year. "Sometimes he overanalyzes and overthinks and is too hard on himself more than anything. Am I upset that (mistakes) happened because we have had a discussion? Yes," Victorino said. "But until you go out there and learn that process you won't know."
"You're going to mess up and you're going to mess up more than once and you're going to mess up a bunch of different ways," Betts said. "That's the frustrating part."
Betts is learning how to find success in failure. The observations have become keener and the ability to implement what he sees has become more difficult.
"I compared him to Cutch early in his career from what I remember watching Andrew McCutcheon," Victorino said of Betts. "And yeah, that is a big guy to put you up against, but I feel Mookie can become that guy, can become that catalyst, become a team leader, by being an electrifying player." (Jen McCaffrey - July 2015)
Dec 2015: Betts participated in the Professional Bowlers Association event. There hasn't been two-sport star in baseball since Drew Henson back in the early 2000s, so it's good to see Betts changing that.
- Comments from Betts's high school coaches: "He was the best player I ever coached," says James McKee, his basketball coach at Overton. "He was that rare kid at that age who had the intellect and the ability to play at a high level. He understood that for us to be our best, he had to facilitate for others."
His former coach says he and Betts sometimes golf together in the offseason. Wait, the guy can golf, too? "He won't have played in however long and he'll pick up a driver, hit it 280 and beat you," McKee laughs.
As good as Betts was at basketball, he was even better on the diamond. He batted .549 as a junior, and he followed that up by hitting .500 with 29 steals as a senior.
Mike Morrison is entering his 20th season as the Overton baseball coach. And yes, hands down, Betts is the best player he ever coached, too. And it wasn't just the skill. Sure, his bat speed would make Dale Jr. jealous and he could run like a gazelle. But the demeanor that accompanied the athleticism is what really set him apart.
"He had ice running through his veins," Morrison says. "Nothing rattled him. Ever."
That's the thing about Betts. He is as even-keeled as it gets. He's the bubble in a level. Remember how Morrison said nothing gets to Betts? The baseball coach also said he never saw anyone with more friends. According to Morrison, no matter where the Bobcats played, somebody always knew his star. And people who didn't wanted to.
"I'll never forget this. We were down in Gulf Shores, Alabama, during Mookie's junior year," Morrison says. "Hueytown, Alabama, was playing in the game behind us. I knew Hueytown had Jameis Winston. Jameis comes into our dugout and goes, 'I just want to meet this Markus Betts everybody is talking about.'
"Mookie got along with everybody," he continues. "He was never a showboat. Everybody liked him." (Rolling Stone - Jan. 2016)
January 2016: The dazzling athleticism of rising Red Sox star Mookie Betts landed the outfielder an impressive honor at the age of 23, getting to be the cover athlete for the legendary video game franchise R.B.I. Baseball 16.
February 4, 2016: Mookie is havin' himself one heckuva month. As if the rapid approach of Spring Training and the unveiling of his R.B.I. 16 cover weren't enough to have him whistling everywhere he walks, the 23-year-old Red Sox outfielder bowled his second perfect game of the last few weeks.
Betts is baseball's big two-sport superstar at the moment. He participated in the World Series of Bowling earlier this offseason and didn't disappoint, rolling an average of 196 in the nine games of his first qualifying round, while posting scores of 249 and 237.
Questions to Mookie from fans (2016 Spring Training):
How old were you when you started bowling? How far did you compete as a kid?
"I think I started bowling when I was 3. I think I bowled my first tournament when I was about 7. I went all the way through high school and haven't stopped since," Betts said.
Are there any similarities between competitive bowling and baseball?
"Just mechanics-wise, you have to focus. Four or five seconds of focus is the main thing."
Who would win a one-on-one basketball game between you and Dustin Pedroia?
"I would beat Pedroia in basketball, yeah. He's not a basketball guy. I was all right. I started when I was 5 and played through high school. He'll definitely talk a good game, but he wouldn't be able to back it up.
How difficult was it for you to switch to outfield? Would you go back to the infield if given a choice?
"I had played the outfield before. It wasn't completely foreign. But it was definitely tough. The Red Sox made as smooth an adjustment for me as it could be. If the team needed me to go back to the infield someday, I'd go back. I've been an infielder my whole life. It's hard to say whether I like the infield or the outfield better. I loved being in the infield, but the outfield is something I do every day now. I love both," Betts said. (Browne - MLB.com - 3/23/16)
Mookie on his mom: "She's familiar with MLB, because she had a brother [Terry Shumpert] who played [14 years in the Major Leagues, including one season in 1995 with the Red Sox]. So she paid attention to all sports, and she always kept up with everything."
She still does, especially when it comes to one of the most dynamic young players in the Majors. After Betts hit 18 home runs and collected 77 RBIs last year, he is flashing signs of becoming a perennial All-Star. He had a stretch in April 2016 in which he had eight hits in three games, including a double, two triples and two homers. During one of those games, Betts was a homer shy of the cycle.
He's fast. He has amazing power at the plate for his build. He can hit for average. His arm is strong in right field. He can make the routine and the spectacular play with consistency. Betts also ranks as everybody's favorite teammate.
Betts chose baseball, and his parents didn't try to pull him away from his Green Monster destiny. "I mean, with my size, since I'm only 5-foot-9 [and 180 pounds], that's initially the thing that popped out and made me decide it was best to focus on baseball," said Betts. "Initially, I signed because I thought it would be the greatest opportunity I would have. But I just grew to love baseball even more, and it looks like I made the right choice."
About that choice: In 2010, the basketball coaches of the 15 major high schools in the Nashville area picked their player of the year. Given the ability of the starting point guard for John Overton to dominate in games at will with his scoring, passing, and defense. The winner was obvious. Yes, Betts. (Moore - MLB.com - 4/29/16)
He was flirting with joining Earl Anthony and the Webers (both Dick and Pete) someday as legendary figures in the Professional Bowlers Association. Betts finished his senior year in high school as the Tennessee Boy Bowler of the Year. Even now, whenever he rolls anything less than a 300 game, it's a disaster in his mind. (Moore - MLB.com - 4/29/16)
November 2017: Betts will look to roll some strikes when he returns to the PBA World Series of Bowling in Reno. He proved his mettle by throwing a 300 game on November 12 in the qualifying round.
Feb. 3, 2019: Mookie and PBA's Tommy Jones captured the 2019 CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational. The duo earned a 101-86 victory over Pete Weber and Terrell Owens, who won the 2017 event hosted by Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul.
"I finally got one," Betts said. "Now I'm going to enjoy it and get ready for baseball."
Betts had finished second in each of his first two tries at winning the Celebrity Invitational. The avid bowler has also made appearances on the PBA World Series of Bowling, including bowling a 300 game in 2017.
- 2020: Betts participated in Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame Classic. It was Betts’s first PBA event since the 2017 PBA World Series of Bowling, where he bowled his third career perfect game.
Betts didn't play prep football. Diana feared her son wouldn't rise from the ground after getting tackled. "I think I would have done all right, because I was a quarterback since I was 7," Betts said. "But my mom said, 'Stay out of football,' so I did. I just served as a water boy." No doubt, Betts was a splendid water boy.
Consider this story from Mike Morrison, Betts' high school baseball coach when the Overton superstar ended his junior and senior year hitting .549 and .509, respectively. Morrison also was an assistant football coach at the school when Betts was the water boy.
"I'll never forget that when Mookie was a freshman, we were playing our first football game, and I was talking before the game to a referee, who was a good friend of mine," Morrison said. "The referee asked me about our team, and I told him we were pretty good, but quarterback was our issue. The referee seemed surprised, and then he said, 'Your best quarterback is already in your building. There he is over there.' He pointed to Mookie, who was throwing the football in the distance. Because his parents didn't want him to play, he didn't complain one second. Instead, he served the best that he could as water boy, and he cheered on everybody else."
Through it all, Betts departed high school with a 3.5 grade-point average while taking honors and advanced placement courses. In sum, when it comes to the essence of Betts, Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly told the Boston Herald during Spring Training: "He's pretty good at everything. He's good at Ping Pong. He's probably good at darts. He's the best at baseball. (Moore - MLB.com - 4/29/16)
Sept 3, 2016: Betts joined exceptional company in the Red Sox's 11-2 win over the A's when he smacked a first-inning, two-run double to the left-field wall, giving him 100 RBIs.
Betts joins Ted Williams (1939 and 1941) as the only Red Sox players in team history to hit 30 or more homers and drive in 100 or more runs before turning 24 years old. Betts also joined teammate David Ortiz, as the second set of Red Sox teammates to hit 30 homers, 40 doubles and drive in 100 runs in a single season, following Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in 2004.
Betts said he was aware of the milestones, and was asked if they were meaningful to him. "No, I mean it's pretty cool, but I'd rather win a World Series," Betts said. (M Ciarelli - MLB.com - Sept 4, 2016)
MLB.com: What kind of things do you do off the field to decompress from baseball?
Betts: I generally have some family with me. But if I'm by myself, I'll watch a movie or sometimes I'll cook. I just try to occupy my mind in some way to get away from baseball just because I'm here for so long at the park and you don't want to stress yourself out. If you don't play well that day, you don't want to think about it the whole day.
MLB.com: What kind of movies do you like?
Betts: I've always watched comedies. I've just started to watch a few of the scary exorcism movies. They are really weird. They used to scare me, but now it's so off the wall. I'm sure it's real, but since it doesn't hit home for me, I can watch it and it doesn't' really faze me at all. It's just weird to see these things are real life.
MLB.com: Do you binge-watch any shows?
Betts: I've watched "Black-ish," "The Black List," "Prison Break." I want to start watching "Game of Thrones," but I've never watched one episode. I heard it's been great, and I have to start watching it at some point. I just don't know when.
MLB.com: Are you a music guy?
Betts: I always listen to music. I listen to R&B and Hip Hop. I'm not a big country guy even though I'm from Nashville. I like some songs, but I wouldn't turn on a country radio station or anything.
MLB.com: We all know about your love for bowling and how good you are at it. How much do you bowl in the offseason?
Betts: I bowl Sunday, Monday, I sub on Tuesday whenever my brother doesn't want to bowl. I take Wednesdays off. I sub for my mom if she doesn't want to bowl on Thursdays. Friday, there's a league I bowl in. Just about every day besides Wednesday and Saturday.
MLB.com: Do you think you will go pro when you are done with baseball?
Betts: I don't know. It's a lot. It's just a lot of traveling. I'm not sure. I just want to get to the point where I'm like my dad and I'm not obligated to do anything.
MLB.com: If you had to pick one similarity between bowling and baseball that helps you excel at both, what would it be?
Betts: Repeating the same mechanics. I guess bowling is pretty mechanical. It's kind of a natural motion, but you have to stick within those mechanics. Baseball is way more natural than mechanical. Also, just the little spurts of focus. In baseball, you focus for that pitch and then you reset. In bowling, you focus for that ball and then you reset and kind of step back, breathe, reset. (Ian Browne- MLB.com -Sept. 2017)
September 12, 2017: Betts hit his 20th homer of the season, becoming the first player in Red Sox history with consecutive 20-homer, 20-steal seasons.
Betts is not included nearly often enough in the conversation about the best young players in the deepest and best crop of young players in all of baseball history. But now we're talking. Because when you add it all up with Betts, when you look at his offense and at his defense, you need to ask yourself a question: How many two-way players are better than the leadoff man for the Red Sox who, oh by the way, has been the best player in baseball in April 2018?
Here is what Orioles manager Buck Showalter says about him: "I've told anyone who will listen. He's the best right fielder I've ever seen in person. The dynamic he creates for them defensively in right field at Fenway is a big advantage for Boston. Special player. Game changer. The term five-tool player is used loosely. But it aptly describes him. One of my most favorite players in our game."
Here is what AJ Hinch, whose Astros beat Betts' Red Sox in the AL Division Series in 2017, says about Betts: "He is an incredible talent. I love his energy and impact. Offensively, he is never off the fastball, and can time up any velocity. A dangerous hitter because of how he barrels up pitches. Defensively, he has every skill you look for. He's a premier player in this league. He can do it all on any given day."
Betts has now hit three homers in a game three times already in his five-year career. It happens to be something that Willie Mays also did three times, and Joe DiMaggio did three times. Babe Ruth did it twice. So did Ken Griffey Jr.
Since the start of 2015, Betts has a WAR of 23.4 (per Baseball Reference), behind only Trout at 28.1. He is a force of baseball nature. Betts has come into 2018 swinging, being more aggressive than ever at the urging of new Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He is, in Hinch's words, "barreling up" on just about everything he sees, as the Red Sox have barreled to the top of the standings for all of baseball so far. Betts does not hit home runs the way Harper does, or Judge does. But among the sport's biggest stars in the outfield, only Trout is in the same conversation with him.
"There's a different approach [this season]," Cora said of Betts. "I think [Betts] set the tempo on the first-pitch fastball of the season when he almost took it out of the ballpark in Tampa against [Chris] Archer. Instead of just working the count, taking pitches right down the middle and falling behind, he's ready to attack from the get-go. You can see now pitchers, they know what's going on, so they have to grind from the first pitch with every at-bat. I don't think it's a hot stretch. I think this is the guy.
Obviously, his OPS is not going to be 1.400. He'll be over .900, and that's a good leadoff hitter. I mean, that's elite. That's what we wanted from the get-go, and he's done an outstanding job."
Yeah. Betts has done that, before the age of 26. He is that good, well on his way to being one of the great players of his time. That's what it is like to talk about what Betts is. Right there in front of everybody's eyes. (Lupica - mlb.com - 4/20/18)
In 2018, Betts was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game.
Mookie has loved watching the Food Network whenever he can. As a middle schooler in Nashville, Tenn., Betts would take shopping trips to Kroger to mimic meals he saw prepared on TV. He often cooked dinner for his parents.
"I would say, 'Mom, I want to do this," Betts recalled. "And my mom would give me some money and I'd ride my bike up, get groceries and everything. And then I'd come back and experiment, cooking and those type of things. That's kind of how I learned how to cook."
Betts likes spending off-seasons in Nashville, partly because of the anonymity and calm. "I can go anywhere and nobody will recognize me," Mookie said. "Which is cool. It's just being a normal person. That's one thing I will say—I really, really enjoy being a normal person, just going and eating dinner and laughing and joking, not being bothered and those type of things."
In a typical offseason day, Betts will work out before meeting friends or going out to eat. Music is a powerful part of his life. He loves hip hop, but his tastes are eclectic.
"I wake up listening to music," Betts said. "I feel like music can kind of change your mood. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, which everybody does sometimes. Accept it, and now try to play some music and change my mood. For the most part, it works."
Mookie becomes a father in November 2018. "I want to be just like my dad," Betts said of Willie Betts. "Watching him, talking with him, hopefully I can just kind of pick up how he was, and how he raised me and my brother and my sister. And I think if I can do something close to the way he did, I should have a good kid." (Evan Drellich - Baseball Digest - Sept. 2018)
Nov. 6, 2018: Betts officially became a father. He and his fiancée welcomed a baby girl.
September 26, 2018: With a steal of second base in the 19-3 win over the Orioles, Mookie joined elite company by becoming the 40th player in MLB history to tally 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs in a season. "It's a special accomplishment," he said. "I don't know how much it really means, but to have your name as part of a group like that is pretty cool. I just try to do whatever I can to win the game." (Forde - mlb.com)
October 4, 2018: Betts won Baseball Digest’s MLB Player of the Year award. The All-Star right fielder is the first Red Sox position player to win the award since its inception in 1969.
Nov 10, 2018: It's difficult for anyone to be as skilled at anything as Mookie Betts is at both baseball and bowling. With extra-base hits in one and effortless strikes in the other, Betts is taking the sports world by storm. Sure enough, when Betts and the Red Sox won the AL pennant, it ensured that he would reach a remarkable athletic feat: Playing in two different World Series within 12 months.
In November 2017, Betts played in the World Series of Bowling and even spun a perfect game during the qualifying rounds. Less than a year later, Betts found himself in another World Series, this time catching eyes by homering off Clayton Kershaw in the decisive Game 5. (A Mearns - MLB.com - Nov 10, 2018)
In 2018, Betts was the American League's Most Valuable Player.
March 7, 2019: There's a lot of debate over what the ideal baseball broadcast looks like. Is it a one-man booth led by a baseball lifer like Vin Scully? A three-person booth with star power and charisma like ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcast that features Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza? Or simply the sites and sounds of the ballpark without narration? While all three are wonderful, neither are the correct answer.
No, the best way to watch a game is with Mookie Betts talking to you. Now, I know what you're saying: "Isn't he a current Major Leaguer? Doesn't he have 162 games to play?" Well, yeah, but why should that stop him? Just mic him up and throw him in the outfield and let him go. That's what happened during Thursday's Twins-Red Sox game. One year after Mookie told us "I ain't getting to that one, boys" and one day after Jackie Bradley Jr. was out there, Mookie did it again. And this time, it was the Mookie show.
The AL MVP pulled off play-by-play mid-play. That's right, Betts somehow ran down a fly ball and threw to second while narrating the whole thing: Betts and his outfield teammates Brock Holt and Bradley Jr. used a break in the action to show off their golf swings, tennis serves and bowling form. Displaying his excellent physical fitness, Betts was able to run down a baseball, throw it to the infield and, somehow without huffing and puffing like the wolf in that pig story, is able to show off his putting form:
Naturally, he also predicted where baseballs would be hit and what it's like changing his daughter's diapers and gave the answer that every new parent wants to give: Mookie Betts: Is there anything he can't do? (M Clair - CUT4 - March 7, 2019)
July 2019: Betts was selected to play in the All-Star Game.
The night of July 26, 2019, started with some good vibes, as Mookie entertained Nico Sapienza, a 10-year-old from Saugus, Mass., who was there as a guest of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sapienza's wish was to meet Betts.
But Betts made sure that Sapienza also met several of his teammates during batting practice, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Once the game started, Sapienza hoped to see his hero go deep in person. Betts wound up giving him that thrill, times three.
"I'm glad he came," Betts said. "He was our good luck charm. He's a great kid. I think him and his family had fun down in BP, and I think if I can kind of use the platform that I have to make people smile like that, then I know I've done something well."
This game was one of those days Betts excelled on and off the field.
"Mookie, besides being a great player, he's a great person. And that's what he does," Cora said. "Everybody knows what he did in the World Series last year after Game 1 [by bringing food to a homeless shelter]. He's a guy with a great heart." (Browne - mlb.com - 7/26/19)
August 2019 Q&A: Mookie has been revered for his show-stopping abilities in the outfield and at the plate, his standout skills in the bowling lanes, and even for being a distant relative of Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. But there is so much more to this guy who, at 26 years old, is just getting started.
You made your Major League debut five years ago. What do you remember about that day?
I remember the hotel, walking in like, "Wow." When I first got into the room, I was wondering where my roommate was, because you don’t have roommates here. My family came in [for the debut]. The morning of the game, we ordered breakfast at that hotel. I got eggs, bacon, some toast. [My girlfriend] Brianna was there. She got some fruit and eggs. My mom and dad were in different rooms. I just know that between the fruit, two orders of eggs, bacon and the order of toast, it was like $112. I was like, "I am never ordering food here again."
When you mentioned a roommate, you and Jackie Bradley Jr. were roommates in 2011 for instructional ball. What are your favorite roommate memories with Jackie?
Oh wow. So when I first walked in the room and I saw him, I was like, “Hold on. I just watched you on TV.” This is all going through my head. You know when you first meet somebody, it’s that 10 seconds of awkward silence and then you speak? Well, yeah, in this 10 seconds, I was like, “I just saw him on TV. I don’t know if this is him. Maybe it is.” Then after the 10 seconds was up, I was like, “Jackie?” He’s like, “Yeah.” He wouldn’t know who I was. We just talked. I just remember our room was like the video game room. After days were over, we’d be eight deep in our hotel room playing video games and all that type of stuff. It was every day, so we got some great bonding time with just me and him, and then obviously other people, too.
Who did you meet, and you couldn’t believe they knew who you were?
When I met Chris Rock. It was this year. It was this year in Toronto. We took a picture, and I guess he didn’t realize how small I was. That’s probably what it is. People, they may know, but they’re like, “That’s not him, because he’s so small.” Me and [Betts’ friend] Cam were going to eat, walking out [of the hotel], and he was walking in. We crossed paths in the hotel lobby. We walked, and then it was like that 10 seconds of awkward silence again. I walked by, I looked at him. He stopped and looked at me. We looked at Cam. Cam looked at me. It was like, “Hold on.” Then I just said, “I don’t want to cause anything. Can we take a picture?” The front desk took the picture. I guess they said, "Is there anything else you guys need?" I think they actually said my name, and that’s when he put two and two together at that point.
What is the coolest vacation you’ve been on?
My sister’s wedding in 2016. I was in her wedding, and we went to Jamaica. That was probably one of the best trips. We did all of the activities, I think that was what made it. [We did] parasailing. I don’t know if it was snorkeling . . . we went out into, I don’t know where we were. We would go and stop in the middle, and there was no land around us. We were able to stand up and everything.
Then we went to this one area where the water’s cold—it’s winter time—and then you go into this one little area and the water’s just hot. We did that. There was one part of the water where it was dark, you got in, and when you got in the water, it lit up. I guess motion in the water makes it light up. The tour guide completely said, “Forget the tour.” He was having fun with us. So we went on this little island or whatever and just saw the culture and everything. There was a big old party out on the island. That was probably the best vacay I’ve been on.
During a game, what do you have to wear?
These two necklaces. [This is] my dad’s necklace that I always wear. He gave it to me back in high school. I never take it off. This necklace, I got last year, two years ago. A kid gave it to me, Griffin, he gave it to me. Griffin is from Paducah, Kentucky, which is where my mom is from. I don’t know how the dots connect. I just know my mom and his dad kind of know each other, because Paducah is a very small city. I just know he was there in Spring Training. I signed a ball, he gave me a necklace. I didn’t know what to do with the necklace, so I just put it on. Everybody loved it, so I kept it.
What is your guilty pleasure TV show?
TV show? Ooh. I’ve got a couple TV shows. Is this funny or serious? I’ll give you one and one. My favorite TV show is probably Power. That’s the serious one. Actually, I’ve got a couple. Orange is the New Black. Oh my gosh, that is a great TV show. Most people don’t know about it, but The Last O.G. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, with Tracy Morgan. That’s a great TV show. Those are my top three. (Jessica Camerato - MLB.com)
Feb 23, 2020: If the Dodgers win the World Series this year, Betts’ inaugural address to his new club will go down as the greatest tone-setter since Kirk Gibson in 1988. Flashback to Vero Beach. Gibson, who had just joined the Dodgers as a free agent, went ballistic over Jesse Orosco painting eye black around the rim of his cap before the first game of the spring, then dressed down his new teammates for a cavalier approach toward their job.
There’s no comparing the 1987 Dodgers, who went 73-89 and finished fourth, to the 2019 edition that won 106 games. But the messages from Betts and Gibson when they addressed their first full-team meeting were eerily similar. A furious Gibson demanded accountability and intensity. A composed Betts? Same.
“When you stand up in front of the team on the first day and essentially call everyone out, says he wants to hold everyone accountable for their effort—not just in the game, but in the workouts—that’s like, all right, you learn what he’s about really fast,” said Justin Turner. “Same principle [as Gibson’s speech], just not critical of us. This was him saying this before he knew anybody. Just signs of leadership, it jumps out at you.
“The first week he was here early, getting out before guys were getting going, so we didn’t really have that many conversations with him. Just kind of assumed he was a quiet guy who goes about his business. Then Day One, you realize you were way off. He was proactive, let’s get in front of this. Day One is as urgent as Game 7 of the World Series. It was awesome, actually.”
Gibson was so angry after Orosco’s prank during warmups that he stormed out of camp minutes before he was to debut as a Dodger. Betts’ Dodgers debut in a 4-2 win over the Cubs was far less dramatic, as he flied out three times, the last one a sacrifice fly that drove in a run. Defensively, he had no action in right field.
Like Gibson, who won a World Series in Detroit in 1984, Betts joins Los Angeles having won a World Series. And, like Gibson, winning an MVP Award. But that World Series win in 2018 only came after Betts tasted first-round defeat in the postseasons of 2016 and 2017. He told his new teammates the difference between winning it all and falling short was total commitment. Everybody in baseball knows the Dodgers have been to the postseason seven consecutive seasons and still haven’t won a World Series since 1988, when Gibson was named MVP as much for his fiery leadership as his production.
The franchise and fanbase are desperate to end that drought. Betts has been anointed as the game changer. If there’s pressure on Betts to make it happen, he’ll deal with it.
“Do I feel pressure? Sure, I guess, but I channel it into working hard and making sure I take care of business,” Betts said. “It’s going to take all of us taking care of business, it’s not going to be just me. Have to keep that in mind.”
Enrique Hernández was just as impacted by Betts’ address as Turner was.
“That hit me, the first day of Spring Training he addresses a group he doesn’t know, that’s not easy to do the way he did,” said Hernández. “Regardless of your status in the game. I thought it was great, it was awesome. It was, 'this is how I play the game,' and I respected the heck out of him for that. The way he talks about the game, there’s a lot of similarities with how I play and how I feel the game should be played. It just made me feel like I’m really looking forward to playing a full season with him and being around him and seeing the type of leader he is. After hearing that, he’s not going to just be impactful on the field, but also in the clubhouse.” (K Gurnick - MLB.com - Feb 23, 2020)
Mookie Betts is a four-time All Star and Gold Glove Award Winner, batting title champion, and 2018 American League MVP.
But before all of the shiny trophies and accolades, he was a kid learning to play the game in Nashville, Tennessee, his first organized baseball team coached by his mother.
Diana Benedict was a three-sport athlete, herself, who sharpened her baseball skills on her family farm. She was a sports fanatic, even naming her son Markus Lynn Betts because she wanted the initials to spell out “MLB.” While Mookie’s father was a track and basketball player, it was his mother who taught him how to play America’s favorite past time.
“She was my first coach,” Betts told MLB.com. “She would go out and throw. Whatever sport it was, she would go out and play with me and I remember sometimes we used to race almost every day. She said I got to the point where I would start to beat her consistently, so she quit then. We were always doing something. I thank her for everything she’s done.”
It all makes sense why Betts recently said that he had to gain approval from his mom before he felt comfortable wearing a Dodgers uniform after growing up in the Boston Red Sox system.
Betts picked up the sport at an early age, playing for his mother. Wearing an oversized uniform, he remembers catching his first fly ball.
“I remember catching my first fly ball,” Betts recently told ESPN. “After I caught it, I looked to my mom, raised the ball up and said, ‘Mommy! Mommy! I caught it!'”
For so long, baseball has been romanticized as a sport shared between fathers and sons. And there are plenty of paternal relationships fostered by the love of the game played on a diamond decorated with bases. But there are also many stories about mothers who have connected to their sons and daughters through the game. (Jeffrey Bellone - May 10, 2020)
Aug. 23, 2020: Betts became the first Dodger in history to hit two homers and steal two bases in the same game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Betts and Utley are the only players ever in World Series history with a home run and two stolen bases in a single game. Both feats came against the Rays … in Game 1.
Oct 28, 2020: Kiké Hernández has been a Dodger a long time. Not Clayton Kershaw long, but long enough to know how the 2020 Dodgers stacked up against the franchise’s most recent powerhouse teams, including pennant-winners in 2017 and 2018. So when Hernández says this team was the best of them, it has some weight.
What stood out about this group?
“Obviously, it's how great Mookie Betts is as a player,” Hernández said before Betts delivered two more huge hits and another burst of brilliant baserunning in a 3-1 Dodgers victory to win the World Series in six games. “Playing in the National League, you don't really get to watch American League players that often, especially on a daily basis.
“And Mookie Betts is the real deal.”
Betts was 12 years old and playing on sandlots in Nashville when folks first noticed his off-the-charts Baseball IQ. It may be his best tool, which is saying something for a player who has all of them.
“He strives to be perfect, to be excellent every single time,” Kershaw said. “That focus, that consistency. I don’t know how much better he made every single guy, but I know it did some.”
That effort began early. Less than a week into his first Spring Training with the Dodgers, Betts texted Roberts and asked if he could address the team. He also requested Kershaw’s telephone number and asked whether the longest-tenured Dodger would mind if Betts shared some thoughts.
“I said do whatever you think,” Kershaw said. “It’s not about superstar status or being a World Series champion [from Betts’ Red Sox days] like he is. He wanted to make us better as a team and he wanted to be a part of that. He saw some things to help out. I appreciated his phone call, but he didn’t have to do that.”
Said Roberts: “I was like, ‘Whatever you have to say, I’m going to support.’ Clayton was the same way. Not knowing all of his teammates -- that was the first day of full-squad workouts. I know David Price was surprised, knowing Mookie for years prior, and how he stepped to the forefront. It was just very genuine, very authentic.”
The message, according to Roberts, boiled down to, “how you do anything is how you do everything.” In other words, practice as hard as you play a World Series game.
“That set the tone” for the whole year, Roberts said.
“I think we worked so hard from Spring Training to now,” Betts said. “We executed when it was time to execute. When our backs were against the wall, we came back. We overcame adversity. Everything is special about this group of guys. We love each other, we played for each other, and not just the Dodgers—that's how great teams are made.” (A McCalvy - MLB.com - Oct 28, 2020)
In 2020, Betts finished second in voting for the NL MVP, missing out on joining the late Frank Robinson as the only players to win MVPs in both leagues.
Betts received two first-place votes and a total of 268 points, being distanced by Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, who received the other 28 first-place votes and a total of 410 points.
2020 Season: The Dodgers won the trade.
I’m not a huge fan of viewing transactions in this fashion, since trades can and should provide different benefits to each party in the deal. But it’s beyond safe to say that the Dodgers got exactly what they wanted and then some by acquiring Mookie Betts from the Red Sox.
“When we acquired him, my expectations were sky high, and somehow he managed to find headroom above that, and exceed it,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said after the World Series. “I just can’t say enough about the baseball player, the way he makes everyone around him better. It’s hard to imagine us sitting here right now without him.”
Where the Dodgers were sitting on October 27 were in the bowels of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, holding the franchise’s first World Series trophy in 32 years. Betts had a hand in every facet of the game all year long.
Betts hit .292/.366/.562 with a 149 wRC+, tying for the team lead with 16 home runs, including a three-homer game on August 13 against San Diego. That was Betts’ sixth three-homer game, tying Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa for the most ever.
On the bases, Betts stole a team-high 10 bases, then 6 more without getting caught during the postseason. He made scoring from third base on a ground ball exciting, whether it was the go-ahead run on Opening Day or the go-ahead runs in Games 1 and 6 of the World Series.
“His jump, his timing, his break off the bat, that’s what made him be safe,” Clayton Kershaw said of the Game 1 break for home. “There’s a lot of guys who are fast, but not many guys can do that.”
Betts led the National League in bWAR (3.6) and finished second in NL MVP voting. He won a Silver Slugger for the fourth time and a Gold Glove for the fifth time. He topped NL outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved (+11) during the regular season, but his defensive prowess was perhaps best shown during the NLCS, when he made game-turning plays in each of the final three games of the series.
Kershaw earlier in the season called Betts the best right fielder he’s ever seen, a though that was likely aided by this throw on July 31 in Phoenix, at 302 feet the longest throw of the MLB season.
In addition to his regular season prowess, Betts hit .296/.378/.493 and scored 15 runs in 18 games. He hit both of his postseason home runs in the World Series, in which he also doubled twice and stole four bases, including earning everyone a free taco for the second time in his career.
Betts can seemingly do it all, and all the consternation over the Dodgers trading for only one season of Betts melted away in July when the Dodgers signed Betts for 12 years and $365 million, the largest contract in team history. (Eric Stephen@ericstephen - Dec 16, 2020)
Dec. 20, 2020: After taking home nearly every piece of hardware imaginable in 2020, Mookie Betts added another award to his growing collection, as Sports Illustrated named him their Player of the Year.
July 2021: Betts was chosen to represent the Dodgers in the All-Star Game.
Aug 30, 2021: One of the most beloved stadium giveaways in baseball is the bobblehead and Mookie Betts made his first Dodgers bobblehead night even more memorable than anyone could have drawn up.
It was a family affair for the 5-3 win over the Braves at Dodger Stadium as Betts’ mom Diana Collins and his brother Mark were in attendance to celebrate his bobblehead night and Diana threw out the first pitch with panache. They had front-row seats behind home plate to watch Betts and the Dodgers in a 2020 NLCS rematch against the Braves.
When Betts went up to the plate in the third inning, he didn’t hesitate to apply his home run swing on a 1-1 fastball from Braves starter Drew Smyly. It traveled 378 feet to left field and had Dodger Stadium rocking.
When he crossed the plate, he caught his mom cheering for him and jumping with excitement. He blew her a kiss as he jogged back into the dugout, sporting a smile for the first baseball coach in his life. (M Garcia - MLB.com - Aug 31, 2021)
Betts is one of the best players in baseball. Before he was winning awards and crushing homers, the younger Betts idolized two titans of the AL East: Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter. (Eric Eulau - 01/02/2022)
Jan. 9, 2022: Mookie is in the middle of an MLB lockout, but that’s not stopping him from accomplishing impressive feats.
The Dodgers outfielder bowled yet another perfect game. Video showed him with a strike in every frame and needed one more for the 300. Yes, the guy known as “Marku” on the scoreboard picked up the final strike for the 300.
Betts has been an avid bowler since high school and even rolled in a professional league in 2015.
He probably made the right career choice given his MVP award and five All-Star Games, not to mention his $365 million contract.
As for his name being “Marku” on the scoreboard, Betts’ full name is Markus Lynn Betts. He goes by Mookie for short, or “Marku” when the scoreboard limits you to five characters. (Larry Brown)
July 8, 2022: Shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Mookie Betts were voted in as starters for the 92nd Midsummer Classic in Los Angeles on July 19.
“Very excited for Mookie, for Trea, and it’s well deserved,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “To know that the fans voted them in, it’s got to feel very good for them. And to be able to play at the host stadium for the All-Star Game, it’s going to be fun.” (J Toribio - MLB.com - July 8, 2022)
MLB had approached Betts with an idea. The All-Star Game came on the 100th birthday of Rachel Robinson, the wife of the late Dodger great Jackie Robinson, a trailblazer in her own right and the steward of the American icon’s legacy. The league wanted Betts — a Dodger himself, giving the fans an overdue coronation two years after signing in Los Angeles for the next decade — to lead the group’s All-Stars in paying tribute to Robinson.
Betts grabbed the microphone, his peers standing behind him as he addressed a sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd and national TV audience and led them in a cheer.
“Today,” Betts said, “is a special day.”
It was Betts, the face of the Dodgers’ next decade, assuming his voice and sense of self that has seeped into everything the six-time All-Star has done this year. He’s been the Dodgers’ engine, a superstar at the top of the order whose joy and calm have led them to the best record in the National League. He’s been Mookie and learned what that means here in Los Angeles.
That means using his voice, encouraging more people who look like him to come watch the game he’s so brilliant at. It means breaking a comfort zone he felt he’d often settled into earlier in his career before he took his role as one of the game’s inimitable figures.
This winter (2021), he got married to his longtime girlfriend, Brianna, in a ceremony in Ranchos Palos Verdes. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Rafael Devers, his teammate for three seasons in Boston, said in Spanish. “Mookie’s just always smiling. That’s who he is."
As the Dodgers have kicked off a new postgame celebration in their home clubhouse, Betts brought in his turntables and showcased his DJ skills.
Trea Turner: “He’s an unbelievable human being. I think everyone knows Mookie as a superstar, but he’s so nice, he’s so kind, polite to so many people. You can see how he acts. I really respect him off the field even more so than on the field. I think he’s probably a top-five baseball player in the game if not higher. But just the person he is, is very admirable for me. I just enjoy being around him and the smile and the joy he has.” (Ardaya-TheAthletic.com-July 19, 2022)
Aug. 29, 2022: Betts recorded eight hits, four homers, seven RBI and a stolen base across three games over a weekend at Marlins Park. He became the fourth player in franchise history to reach those totals across any three-game span, joining Shawn Green (2001), Jim Wynn (1974) and Roy Campanella (1953).
Aug. 29, 2022: Betts committed to play for Team USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Teammates for the Nations to Cherish:
Xander Bogaerts was born October 1, 1992, and made his major league debut on August 13, 2013, when he was 20 years old. Two months later, barely 21, he earned a World Series ring when the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in the 2013 Fall Classic.
Mookie Betts was born October 7, 1992, and made his major league debut at 21 on June 29, 2014. He and Bogaerts were each 26 when they earned World Series rings after the Red Sox defeated the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series.
After the second game of the 2018 World Series, Betts gathered up food and distributed it to the homeless spending the night outside the Boston Public Library. In this Covid era, with players rushed in for brief stints from Worcester, Bogaerts thanks each one for coming in and helping the major-league team. As Mark Shapiro has said for nearly 20 years, “culture counts.” I covered the Red Sox team that two veteran players named “25 guys, 25 cabs.”
The first full season for both Bogaerts and Betts was 2015. From Opening Day 2015 through September 10, 2022, their numbers are similar in many ways, with their hits, doubles, runs, batting averages and RBI all fairly similar, though Betts hits for more home run power. Over that time, Bogaerts is the MLB leader among shortstops in games played, runs, and RBI.
Bogaerts can opt out of his contract this November, and after the club offered him a one-year, $30 million extension he is expected to opt out and hit the market. As players repeatedly point out in clubhouse conversations, Bogaerts is the leader and soul of the team, and his situation is a red flag that those who make the decisions have no feel for the clubhouse pulse. The romance of “The Teammates” and Red Sox Nation is good marketing, yet the two most popular and productive homegrown players in the current ownership’s successful and wealthy 20-year tenure didn’t make the cut on the Nasdaq Board. (Gammons - Sep 16, 2022)
Oct. 9, 2022: Mookie Betts’ October is off to a perfect start.
The Dodgers outfielder spent some time this weekend enjoying one his other favorite sports — bowling — and was clearly on his “A” game at the bowling alley.
In an Instagram post Betts shared, the All-Star revealed that “after an amazing party” this weekend he woke up and bowled a perfect game.
2022 Season: The injury bug still found Betts this year, though it was more of a freak occurrence, a collision with Cody Bellinger that broke a rib. That cost Betts 15 games at the end of June, but otherwise he was unimpaired during the season.
Defense showed the starkest difference between 2021 and 2022, with Betts regaining his speed and full range in right field. His fielding metrics jumped back to their norm, including Defensive Runs Saved (+4 in 2021 to +15 in 2022) and Outs Above Average (+1 to +5). Betts led National League right fielders in the SABR Defensive Index, an amalgam of stats that account for a quarter of Gold Glove Award voting. He’s a top-three finisher among NL right fielders, looking to add to his five straight Gold Gloves from 2016-20 (we’ll find out Tuesday night if he gets a sixth). Betts also won the Fielding Bible Award for best defensive right fielder in MLB, his fifth such award (along with 2016-18 and 2020).
He made his sixth All-Star team, starting in center field for the National League at Dodger Stadium, and delivered an RBI single in his only at-bat in the game.
Betts is also a Silver Slugger finalist among NL right fielders, looking to add a fifth career Sliver Slugger to his mantel. He was back to tattooing the ball again, his hard-hit rate (44.9 percent) his best since 2019. His .264 isolated power was his best in a full season since his MVP year in 2018 with Boston (.294), and right in line with his power surge in the pandemic-shortened first season in Los Angeles (.269). The 5’9 Betts finished second in the National League in slugging percentage, narrowly ahead (.533217) of St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado (.533214).
Thirty-five home runs this year represented a career best for Betts, who also hit 40 doubles. He’s just the third Dodger ever with at least 35 home runs and 35 doubles, joining Duke Snider (1953, 1954) and Babe Herman (1930). All of Betts’ home runs were hit while batting leadoff, tied for the seventh-most in a major league season while hitting first. Betts broke Joc Pederson’s Dodgers record (33 in 2019) for leadoff home runs in a season, and Betts’ 69 leadoff home runs in three years in Los Angeles is already tied for second in franchise history, just 30 behind Davey Lopes.
Betts is also one of eight NL finalists for the Hank Aaron Award, which seeks to reward the best offensive player in each league.
Batting leadoff in a dynamic lineup that led the majors in runs scored afforded Betts the opportunity to score a lot, and his 117 runs tied for the National League lead with teammate Freddie Freeman, who played in 17 more games. It was the third time Betts led his league in runs scored, along with 2018 and 2019 in Boston. He and Freeman represented just the third year a Los Angeles Dodger led the NL in runs scored, along with Brett Butler (1991) and Matt Kemp (2011).
A power surge coupled with defensive prowess understandably had Betts among the best players in baseball in total production, ranking sixth in the NL in WAR, both the FanGraphs version (6.6) and Baseball Reference (6.4) versions.
Betts has the ninth-best ages 27-29 stretch in Dodgers history, ranked by WAR. But considering his 2020 season was truncated to 60 games, extrapolating a full year would put Betts’ 27-29 seasons second in franchise history only to Duke Snider. Or maybe third, considering Mike Piazza was traded away only a quarter into his age-29 year (1998).
Several times over Betts’ three years in Los Angeles, manager Dave Roberts has said some version of “as Mookie goes, so go the Dodgers.” It’s too reductive to take that literally, but consider this — the Dodgers in 2022 were 97-41 (.703) when Betts started, and 14-10 (.583) when he didn’t. Since the start of 2020, LA has a .694 winning percentage in Betts starts, and (a still-great) .610 mark otherwise.
Betts had just two hits in 14 at-bats with a double and three walks in the NLDS, hitting just .143/.278/.214. But he was by no means alone in offensive ineptitude in the Dodgers’ four-game ousting.
Betts turned 30 on October 7. In his 20s, his 56.4 bWAR ranked 28th in major league history. He’s has been every bit as good as advertised since joining the Dodgers, remaining one of the best players in baseball who sparks a dynamic lineup from the top. Mookie Betts is on a Hall of Fame track, and is signed for 10 more years.
Stats: .269/.340/.533, 35 HR, 40 doubles, 12 SB, 136 OPS+, 144 wRC+, 6.4 bWAR, 6.6 fWAR (Eric Stephen@ericstephen Oct 29, 2022)
Nov. 2022: Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts is a man of all traits. He is a hooper, could burn you on a couple of routes, is a tremendous bowler, and is one of the best baseball players in the league today.
Betts will take his talents on stage as he will be a presenter for this year’s Country Music Awards on Wednesday, November 9th.
Dec 5, 2022: Mookie Betts was named to the All-MLB First Team in the outfield position. Betts, the six-time All-Star had a bounce back season in 2022 after dealing with a nagging back/hip injury in ‘21. There was an argument to be made that Betts was the best hitter on the planet in May, when he hit 12 homers. It’s been a good offseason for Betts, who won a Gold Glove in right field, a Silver Slugger, an All-MLB selection and a top-five finish in the BBWAA National League MVP voting. (J Toribio - MLB.com - Dec 5, 2022)
Dec. 2022: Betts committed to play for Team USA in the 2023 WBC.
Feb 8, 2023: - From the age of 3, bowling has been a huge part of Mookie Betts' life. That’s when his mother, Diana Collins, introduced him to the sport, and -- as many fans know by now -- it’s been a passion of his ever since.
Not only is bowling a way for Betts to bond with his family and friends, it also allows him to release his competitive energy outside of baseball season. Just this past week, he competed at the PBA Tour’s U.S. Open in Indianapolis.
Now, Betts and his wife, Brianna, have found a new purpose for bowling: giving back to their community.
“Brianna and I are committed to helping break barriers that impact the next generation of children, and what better way to raise money than by bowling for a good cause,” Betts said in a statement.In support of their new charity, The 5050 Foundation, the Betts family hosted the inaugural Mookie Betts + Friends Bowling Tournament at the Lucky Strike L.A. Live. According to its site, the foundation’s focus is ensuring equal access to opportunity for the youth of Los Angeles, “especially when it comes to their medical and financial needs.” “L.A. is like home now,” said Brianna Betts, whom Mookie credited for doing the heavy lifting in running the foundation. “We're getting acquainted, it feels like, when we've been here for a couple of years now. So it feels good to give back to the community.”
While the 5050 Foundation launched over a year ago, it wasn’t until now that Mookie and Brianna were able to host their first event. They intend for the tournament to be an annual occurrence, and the enthusiastic turnout Wednesday shows they’ve got plenty of support.
Participants enjoyed food, drink and, of course, bowling a few frames, with the two teams totaling the most pins heading to a roll-off to determine the winner. The evening also featured a toy drive and a silent auction. Available for bidding were signed items from an array of sports figures, including Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Barry Bonds, Eddie Murray, Jalen Ramsey and Torii Hunter, as well as a round of golf for two with former Dodger and six-time All-Star Kenny Lofton. Dodgers players in attendance included J.D. Martinez and Miguel Vargas. Other guests included president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, general manager Brandon Gomes and former L.A. first baseman James Loney. Also present was the woman responsible for Betts' love of bowling -- and baseball, and so many other things. Collins has been blown away by how the L.A. community has embraced Betts and his family. Above all, she’s immensely proud of her son’s achievements.
“Mookie’s always had a heart for kids,” said Collins. “... I think it's very important that we give back now. Being able to do that is important to us. So I feel blessed and he feels blessed. And so if we can do something, then we will.” (S Wexler - MLB.com - Feb 9, 2023)
Feb. 6, 2023: Betts’ revealed that Bottom of the Map by Jeezy is the song that has inspired him during his career.
“Hey I’m 6-time All-Star and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and the song that has helped me through my career is by Young Jeezy called Bottom of the Map,” Betts said during his video.
Jeezy expressed his gratitude to Betts for picking his song.
“Yo shoutout to Mookie Betts,” Jeezy said, “for picking my song. It’s about being relentless, doing what you do to the best of your capability.” (Joey Mistretta)
April 26, 2023: Welcome to the world, Kaj Lynn Betts. Congratulations Mookie and Brianna on the birth of your son!
Dodgers Star Mookie Betts Rents Airbnb to Avoid ‘Haunted' Milwaukee Hotel
While Mookie Betts doesn't necessarily believe in ghosts, he's still not taking any chances.
The six-time All-Star opted not to stay at the same place as his Dodgers teammates during Los Angeles' current three-game series with the Brewers. That's because the club is spending the trip at the famous "haunted" Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
Betts, meanwhile, is staying with friends at an Airbnb "just in case" the 130-year-old hotel is actually haunted.
“You can tell me what happened [at the hotel] after,” Betts told reporters on Tuesday, via The Orange County Register. “I just don’t want to find out myself.” (Eric Mullin • May 9, 2023)
Had a fun exchange with Mookie Betts when I asked him why it is so much easier on his body to play shortstop than right field. Betts pointed from the Dodgers’ dugout to right field and told me to count the steps back and forth, 18 times. Then he pointed from the dugout to shortstop and told me to count those steps, 18 times. Then he said, “You take four steps to the right for a groundball, 30 steps to the left for a flyball. It’s just simple math!” (Rosenthal - May 24, 2023- The Athletic)
June 2011: He signed with the Red Sox for a bonus of $750,000 (well above slot), via scout Danny Watkins, after they drafted him in the fifth round, out of Overton High School in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Feb 1, 2018: Mookie won his arbitration case for $10.5 million. The Red Sox offered $7.5 million.
Betts and the Red Sox not only avoided arbitration, but they did so with a one-year, $20 million contract that sets a record for a player in his second season of arbitration-eligibility.
Jan 10, 2020: The Red Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing with Betts on a $27 million record-setting deal for 2020, breaking Nolan Arenado's year-old record $26 million for a player in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Feb 9, 2020: In a three-team blockbuster trade, the Red Sox get OF Alex Verdugo, SS Jeter Downs and C Connnor Wong (from Dodgers). The Dodgers got Betts, LHP David Price and cash from Boston. The Dodgers also received, RHP Brusder Graterol, OF Luke Raley, and the 67th pick of the 2020 draft from the Twins. And the Twins got RHP Kenta Maeda, a minor leaguer, and cash from the Dodgers.
The Dodgers will pay Betts’ $27 million salary for 2020, after which he’ll be a free agent.
- July 21, 2020: The Dodgers and Betts agreed to a landmark 12-year contract extension that runs through 2032. It's for $365 million.
Betts has a short, quick righthanded stroke and hits the ball from gap to gap, to all fields. He has an inside-out swing that gets him lots of base hits. And he is surprisingly strong and hits lots of hard line drives. And in 2013, he learned to pull the ball with more authority with his whippy bat.
His very strong hands and quick wrists enable him to hit 20 homers a year. Looking at him, and his small frame, you wonder how he does it. But it is a combination of getting good pitches and a compact swing through the zone with some good bat speed for lots of extra-base hits. (Spring, 2014)
Mookie sees the ball very early out of the pitcher's hand. And he stays inside the ball real well. He has incredible pitch recognition. He barrels the ball and is able to use the entire field.
You can't get him to chase a breaking ball. He has an excellent batting eye and will take a walk. His pitch selection is impressive. And once he is on first base, it's just a matter of time before he takes off. (2015)
A patient hitter, Betts manages the strike zone well and virtually always refuses to chase breaking balls off the plate. When he gets a pitch to hit, he uses a whip-like swing to drive balls to the gaps. Wiry strong, he has plenty of pop for a player his size and could add more, as he sometimes sacrifices extension in his swing to stay inside the ball.
Long term, Mookie projects as a top-of-the-order hitter, thanks to his on-base skills. Unlike many top-of-the-order speedsters, he has enough power to force pitchers to treat him gingerly if they fall behind in the count.
Mookie almost always takes the first pitch, about 85 percent of the time. The only time he swings at a first pitch is if it is right down the middle. Making contact is easy for Betts. (2014)
In 2013, low Class A Greenville hitting coach U.L. Washington helped him tweak his hitting mechanics at the plate, allowing him to become an on-base machine with surprising power.
- Mookie eliminated an exaggerated windup during his load, which he blamed, in part, for throwing him off during the early stages of his career.
“I had a big leg kick. That was it, just a big leg kick that threw off the timing,” Betts said. “It was just like a pitcher’s leg kick, like when they wind up and get ready to throw a pitch. It was about the same thing. It was throwing off my timing."
Betts has immensely talented hands. They allow him to be incredibly quick to the ball, thus keeping his contact rates high, and limiting his strikeouts. (Spring, 2014)
2014 season: Mookie, having eliminated his pitcher-like leg kick and opting instead for a more orthodox stride, as well as the addition of about 15 pounds of muscle thanks to improved strength training. The result was more sock behind the ball, more line drives sprayed to all sectors of the diamond, and a 36-game on-base streak that lasted most of his time with the Portland Sea Dogs.
What does he view as his strengths offensively? "I think just being able to put the ball in play," Betts said. "Make contact. Trying to keep my strikeout rate low and my walk rate high. Trying to get on base."
"I thought he controlled his at-bats very well," said Farrell. "Particularly the one at-bat where he walked, I thought he battled inside the at-bat, took a couple of close pitches, but I thought emotionally he was well under control, good bat speed. It's one game. He looked OK." (Browne & Petrella - mlb.com - 6/30/14)
Listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Betts is considered more of a contact hitter with plate discipline, keen on splitting the gaps and getting on base any way he can.
And Mookie has all the ingredients to be a hitting star—barrel control, true plate discipline, speed, and solid power.
May 5, 2015: Betts, at the age of 22 years and 210 days, became the youngest player to belt two homers for Boston since Jim Rice did it at the age of 22 in 1975.
Rare is the superior athlete who enters pro ball with athleticism and advanced baseball skills. Betts is one of them. "The Andrew McCutchen comp is the best comp," says Cubs president Theo Epstein, who drafted Betts is 2011, his last year as Boston's GM. "It's the combination of a short swing, bat speed, superior hand-eye coordination, and athleticism."
You only understand how such big expectations became possible after his front foot and hands have completed their busy work with the flash of his bat. It was Shumpert, after Betts was drafted, who suggested he develop that odd rhythm with his hands before swinging. It was a way to generate more power out of that little body.
Watching Betts is like watching the engine of a sports car run: it is a symphony of fast-moving parts. There is a moment as the pitcher brings the ball behind him, when contact seems impossible. The constant waggle of Betts's bat has left the barrel low, and behind him. The front foot is only beginning to kick upward. But then the gearbox gets busy. Foot, hips, shoulders and hands fire in rapid succession. And a baseball in flight for just .40 seconds is met by the swift swipe of his bat. It is a wonder to behold: how someone this unique, this small and this young can be right on time. (SI - June 1, 2015)
In 2015, Betts's 68 extra-base hits stood out for Boston fans. The only players in team history to record more in a season before they turned 23 are Ted Williams (80) and Bobby Doerr (69). They both did it in 1940, and they both now reside in Cooperstown.
2015: At 22, Betts became the youngest Red Sox to homer on Opening Day since 20-year-old Tony Conigliaro in 1965. Since 2012, the only Major Leaguers to hit an Opening Day homer before turning 23 are Betts, Mike Trout (2014) and Bryce Harper (2013, 2015).
May 1, 2016: Betts made some history with two more homers in a 13-9 loss to the Orioles, the Red Sox outfielder became the first player in Major League history to hit a homer in each of the first two innings in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
August 29, 2016: Mookie's emerging power allowed the recently installed cleanup man to reach a special place in Red Sox history. When Betts clubbed his 30th home run, a towering shot off a sign behind the Monster Seats, he became just the third Boston player to reach that number in a season before turning 24 years old.
The others? Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who did it in 1939 and 1941, and Tony Conigliaro, who achieved the feat in 1965.
"You know, conversations are starting to happen where you look at David Ortiz, the neighborhood that he's keeping now and now Mookie at his age for what he's producing is not only strong but it's very rare," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "What he's doing in the second half now is well above I think maybe what we expected coming into the second half of this season. There's no sign of any fading in Mookie." (Browne - MLB.com)
September 19, 2016: Betts is tied for the all-time record for most visiting homers at an existing venue (Camden Yards); equaling Sammy Sosa (Minute Maid Park, 2001), Mike Schmidt (Wrigley Field, 1980) and Babe Ruth (Fenway Park, 1927).
September 20, 2016: Betts collected three singles to eclipse 200 knocks for the year. He is the ninth player in history to be in an age-23 season or younger and compile at least 200 hits and 30 homers. Hal Trosky did this in 1934 and 1936, and Joe DiMaggio followed in 1937. It didn't occur again until 1996, when Alex Rodriguez joined the club. After that, Nomar Garciaparra accomplished the feat in 1997, Vladimir Guerrero and Rodriguez both did it in 1998, and Albert Pujols in 2003.
April 19, 2017: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the longest streak in the Expansion Era (since 1961) for plate appearances without a strikeout is 223, by Philadelphia's Dave Cash in 1976.
It was simply striking how long Betts went between strikeouts. In the top of the fourth inning of a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, Francisco Liriano got Betts to whiff at a 2-2 slider that was on the outside black of the strike zone, about knee-high.
That ended a span of 129 regular-season plate appearances by Betts—the longest streak by a Boston hitter since Denny Doyle in 1975 (159 plate appearances). It was also the longest such streak by any Major League hitter since Juan Pierre of the Marlins went 147 plate appearances without a strikeout in 2004. (Browne - mlb.com)
July 9, 2017: Betts has the most leadoff home runs in Red Sox history.
July 6, 2018: Mookie led off the game with his 100th career homer.
2018 season: Betts became the first Red Sox player to win the AL batting title (.346) since Bill Mueller in 2003. Not only that, but the star leadoff man is the first Boston player to lead the Majors in batting average since Hall of Famer Wade Boggs back in 1988.
July 18, 2019: Betts scored a run for the 13th straight game. Boston’s last player to accomplish that feat was a guy named Ted Williams, who did it in 1946.
August 14, 2014: Betts can now share a sentence with Ted Williams after his latest launch party that included three homers and eight RBIs. In the rich history of the Red Sox, Betts and Williams are the only players to have two three-homer games in the same season.
May 2, 2018: Mookie used his return to the lineup after a brief absence as a day to make history on multiple fronts.
Betts mashed three home runs, and his team needed all of them in a 5-4 victory over the Royals in a matinee rubber game at Fenway Park. By turning in the fourth three-homer performance of his career, all off Royals starter Danny Duffy, Betts passed Ted Williams for the most in team history.
"It's pretty cool," Betts said. "He hit .400 one year. He did a whole bunch of other things I haven't done. Just to know my name is amongst his is pretty cool."
The only two players in history to have multiple three-homer games in the same season more than once in a career? Betts and Johnny Mize, who did it in 1938 and 1940. Betts and Albert Pujols are the only active players with four three-homer games.
Perhaps most impressive is that Betts is the first player in Major League history to produce four three-homer games before his 26th birthday. Ralph Kiner and Boog Powell had done it only three times before turning 26. (Browne - mlb.com - 5/2/18)
- July 26, 2019: Mookie hit three home runs in his first three at bats against the Yankees. Remarkably for Betts, it was the fifth time he has hit three homers in a game, as he extended his own club record. Only eight players in MLB history have had five games with three homers or more.
On Aug. 13, 2020, he homered three times against the Padres, joining Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa as the only players in MLB history with six career three-homer games. (K Gurnick - MLB.com - Nov 2, 2020)
August 2, 2019: Mookie became the fastest Red Sox player (in terms of team games) to score 100 runs in a season since Ted Williams in 1949. Betts crossed home plate twice, for his 100th and 101st runs.
Nov 7, 2019: Betts' sustained excellence has produced yet another accolade, this one his third Silver Slugger Award for 2019.
May 2020: Who has the best eye on the Dodgers?
In a Dodgers lineup loaded with professional hitters, Mookie Betts gets the nod. He ranks seventh in MLB since 2016 in lowest chase rate for full-time players (19.2 percent) and ranked 14th in in-zone contact rate in '19 (92.1 percent). He surpasses new teammates Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Corey Seager in both those metrics.
As MLB.com’s Matt Kelly pointed out, Betts hit .340 against pitches in the strike zone since 2016. Known as a fastball hitter, he has raised his average against breaking balls each of the past three seasons, improving to .300 against them in '19. He’s disciplined enough to get ahead in the count, punishes fastballs and has greatly improved against breaking balls, creating an ideal formula to torment pitchers. –Ken Gurnick
August 23, 2020: Mookie became the first Dodger to hit two homers and steal two bases in the same game. “He’s unbelievable,” teammate Enrique Hernández said of Betts. “He’s one of those guys we didn’t get the opportunity to watch too often in a different league. Now you get to see him on a daily basis and you know what all the Mookie Betts hype is all about. There’s really not anything he can’t do.” (Gurnick - mlb.com)
2020 Season: Betts ranked among NL leaders in hits (64, 10th), runs (47, 4th), batting average (.292, 16th), OBP (.366, 17th), SLG (.562, 13th), steals (10, 5th) and homers (16, 3rd). He went 18-for-41 (.439) with runners in scoring position, the third-best mark in the Majors, and Betts was at his best late in games, posting a .343 (24-for-70)/.370/.643 slash line from the seventh inning on.
Betts led the league in WAR. He had a .302/.383/.570 slash line out of the leadoff spot, and when he batted first, the Dodgers posted a 33-9 record. The Dodgers went 31-5 when Betts scored a run. (K Gurnick - MLB.com - Nov 2, 2020)
Nov. 5, 2020: Betts was recognized for his offensive production days after he was named a Gold Glove winner for the fifth time in his career. He is the sixth player in Dodgers history to win the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the same season.
It is Betts’ third straight Silver Slugger award, fourth overall, and first in the National League. He batted .292 with a .927 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 55 games.
Dec 9, 2020: Betts was named to the 2020 All-MLB First Team.
Betts ranked among NL leaders in hits (64, tied for 10th), runs (47, fourth), batting average (.292, 16th), on-base percentage (.366, 17th), slugging percentage (.562, 13th), stolen bases (10, tied for fifth) and home runs (16, tied for third). He went 18-for-41 (.439) with runners in scoring position, the third-best mark in the Majors, and was at his best late in games, posting a .343/.370/.643 slash line from the seventh inning and later.
Betts had a .302/.383/.570 slash line out of the leadoff spot, and when he batted first, the Dodgers went 33-9. They went 31-5 when Betts scored a run. (K Gurnick - MLB.com - Dec 9, 2020)
Oct. 14, 2021: Betts became the first Dodgers player with four hits in a winner-take-all game, showcasing his ability to impact a game with the bat.
- May 23, 2022: Betts tied a Dodgers record against the Nationals by scoring in his 12th consecutive game. (Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler holds the franchise feat with 14 straight games with a run scored, which he did back in 1901. Zack Wheat, another Hall of Famer, scored in 13 straight games in 1925. So did Sammy Strang, in 1903.)
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Mookie had a career batting average of .296 with 267 doubles and 178 home runs and 567 RBI in 3,888 at-bats. (He also had 146 stolen bases out of 178 attempts [82%].)
Betts had a penchant for highlight-reel defensive plays at second base, and he has the athleticism and range for the Red Sox to consider shortstop and center field as possibilities.
Mookie has become one of the better defensive second baseman around. But, with Dustin Pedroia locked in at second, the Red Sox moved Betts to center field in 2014. And he adjusted quickly.
Mookie fits well in center field, where he is at least an average defender and improving. One concern is his infielder's arm. (Spring 2015)
In 2016, Red Sox right fielder Betts won his first Gold Glove award.
In 2017, Betts was again the AL right field Rawlings Gold Glove winner.
In 2018, Betts won his third straight Gold Glove Award. He was tied for second among all Major League outfielders with 20 defensive runs saved, and produced 11 outs above average.
In 2018, Betts was a Fielding Bible Award winner.
In 2018, Betts won his second Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In 2019, Betts won his fourth career Gold Glove Award for RF.
Oct. 2022: Betts won the Fielding Bible Award at RF for the Dodgers. Betts, who had just four DRS in right field last season, saw that number jump to 15 in 2022. Only Aristides Aquino (16 DRS) had more, though he also appeared in just 80 games for the Reds.
- In 2020, Betts secured his fifth Gold Glove Award in his first full season with the Dodgers.
Oct 27, 2022: The 2022 Fielding Bible Awards, given to the best defensive players at each position, were announced. The winners were voted on by a panel of experts who consider statistical analysis, the eye test and any other factor they wish to use.
Betts was the 2022 winner of the RF Fielding Bible Award. He had just four DRS in right field last season in 2021, but saw that number jump to 15 in 2022. Only Aristides Aquino (16 DRS) had more, though he also appeared in just 80 games for the Reds. (P Casella - MLB.com - Oct 27, 2022)
- 2022 Gold Glove winner - Right field: Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Betts led all MLB right fielders with 15 DRS, which evaluates a player’s range and ability to convert a batted ball into an out. His latest Gold Glove is the sixth of his career, after he won the honor five straight years from 2016-20. He is the fourth outfielder in Dodgers history to win multiple Gold Glove Awards, along with Willie Davis (three), Raul Mondesi (two) and Matt Kemp (two).
Mookie has a quick first step and rapid acceleration that provides above-average speed for stealing bases.
Betts is an above-average runner, but he’s an even better base-stealer because he knows how to pick his spots and get good jumps. He has fine instincts. He always has an impressive success rate of stealing bases.
Mookie also has elite on-base skills—enough for his 60 speed to play up—almost a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
From 2015 to 2018, Mookie had 20+ stolen bases four years in a row for the Red Sox.
July 6, 2019: With two runs scored, Mookie Betts surpassed 75 runs for the season before the All-Star break for the third time in his career and joined an elite club.
The only other players to do it are: Todd Helton (2000, '01, '03), Rickey Henderson (1982, '85, '86), Bobby Bonds (1969, '70, '73) and Ted Williams (1946, '49, '50). Betts also accomplished the feat in 2016 and 2018.
2020 Season: Betts was the leader in Baserunning Net Gain in 2020. He tallied +22 bases for the Dodgers from his baserunning. This was the first time in his career that Betts led the majors in this stat. He previously finished tied-sixth in 2015, third in 2016 and 2018, and second in 2017.
Betts stole 10 bases in 12 attempts, but it wasn’t stolen bases where Betts made his mark. Betts rated an MLB-best +16 in Baserunning Gain, which measures how often a player takes extra bases on hits (such as going second to home on a single), how often he advances on wild pitches and passed balls, and how he fares at avoiding being thrown out, doubled off, or hitting into a double play.
This marked the second time he had the best Baserunning Gain numbers (as opposed to Net Gain), the other instance being in 2017.
In 2020, Betts went first to third on 7 singles in 13 opportunities. (The average runner advances to third 28% of the time.) He scored from second on a single 7 times in 8 opportunities (the average success rate is 59%). He recorded 12 bases taken, made no baserunning outs. And he hit into only 2 double plays in 39 opportunities (his rate was about half the MLB double play rate of 10%). (Mark Simon - Oct. 28, 2020)
July 29-Aug. 11, 2015: Betts was on the 7-day concussion D.L.
Nov 10, 2016: Betts underwent a successful right knee arthroscopy, chondroplasty, and loose body removal. He was expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training.
May 29-June 11, 2018: Mookie was on the DL with left abdominal strain.
- Sept 24, 2019: Mookie had to exit the Red Sox's 12-10 victory over the Rangers with pain in his left foot.
Betts had been dealing with inflammation in that same foot, forcing him out of action from Sept. 13-19. He aggravated it in the second inning, when he banged into the wall in pursuit of a triple by Delino DeShields.
Aug 2, 2020: Mookie still had “substantial swelling” in his left middle finger and was out of the lineup. Betts left the game early after taking an awkward swing in an at-bat that ended with a home run into the pool at Chase Field. He played two more innings of defense before leaving for a pinch-hitter with swelling in the finger. X-rays were negative.
Aug 7, 2020: Back in the lineup after missing three starts, Betts led a four-homer barrage in a 7-2 win over the Giants.
“It was really impressive,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Obviously, he’s one of the great players in the game. I thought we were responsible, giving him extra time to make sure his finger felt good enough to play and take the at-bats. He gave us a little bit of life. After that, guys followed suit.”
April 7, 2021: "Betts came in with a tight back," manager Dave Roberts said following the Dodgers' 4-3 loss. "The plan was to play him. Obviously, if the player doesn't feel well, he's not going to play. The plan is to run him out there a lot; depending on how he is feeling and the schedule, we'll pick off-days. The plan is to have him out there quite often."
April 9, 2021: Mookie Betts is out of the starting lineup for a second consecutive game with a sore lower back. The injury occurred before the finale against the A’s. He’s considered day-to-day.
April 12, 2021: Betts was out of the lineup for a fourth consecutive game and is still considered day to day with a stiff lower back that has lingered for a few days.
April 19, 2021: Betts was hit with a 95 mph fastball on the inside of his right forearm with one out in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to the Mariners.
“It’s kind of a right forearm, a lot of soft tissue,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I’m sure there’s going to be some bruising, maybe some swelling, so I just won’t know more until he shows up.
June 22, 2021: Betts was a game-time decision against the Padres due to a stomach flu, then was taken out of the game in the sixth inning. The star outfielder was out of the lineup in San Diego.
July 22-Aug 1, 2021: Betts was on the IL. with a hip injury.
July 30, 2021: Betts again worked out with the team during batting practice at Chase Field as he continued to test out his hip. He ran the bases and took grounders on the field.
Aug 11-26, 2021: The Dodgers placed Betts on the injured list with right hip inflammation. Mookie is heading back to Los Angeles to have medical experts “chime in” on his lingering hip injury.
“We’ll keep digging in on this, and with some rest, hopefully he responds well,” said manager Roberts.
June 17, 2022: Betts was a late scratch before the game against the Guardians with a right rib contusion. The star outfielder said he experienced discomfort while swinging and throwing. Dave Roberts said Betts is experiencing “residual soreness” from a collision he had with Cody Bellinger in the outfield on June 15.
June 19-July 3, 2022: Betts was on the IL with right rib fracture.