Los Angeles Dodgers proper fielder Mookie Betts is likely one of the few American-born Blacks taking part in baseball. He’s additionally among the best gamers, interval.
ABOVE PHOTO: Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts in the course of the ninth inning of a baseball recreation, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Picture/Matt Rourke)
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN
If there’s anybody in Main League Baseball that has really made essentially the most of his time within the sport is Los Angeles Dodgers proper fielder Mookie Betts.
Not like lots of gamers who dream of creating it to the large leagues whereas taking part in Little League baseball, Betts, who was additionally an All-State bowler at Overton Excessive Faculty in Nashville, stated he didn’t determine he was ok to be a serious leaguer till just a few video games into his first 12 months with the Boston Crimson Sox in 2014.
“I didn’t know what I wished to do,” he stated throughout an interview at Residents Financial institution Park in the course of the Dodgers sequence with the Philadelphia Phillies. “Baseball simply kinda landed on me, man. This wasn’t that I awoke and stated that this was one thing that I wished to do. I used to be simply gifted. God gifted me with some talents, and I believe my mother and father did a extremely good job of exposing these talents to myself first and different individuals and I embraced it.”
Really, it was extra like Betts touchdown on baseball, and he did by making himself one of many recreation’s brightest stars as one of many few American-born Black gamers in baseball. Throughout his seven years with the Boston Crimson Sox, Betts grew to become of the sport’s greatest lead-off hitters, among the best clutch hitters, and one of many recreation’s greatest outfielders.
Betts, a six-time All-Star, was the American League’s Most Precious Participant 2018 and led Boston to a World Sequence win over his present staff, the Dodgers. He’s a 5- time winner of MLB’s Silver Slugger Award — three with the Crimson Sox and two with Los Angeles.
Within the discipline, Betts is a six-time Gold-Glove winner in proper discipline. Again in 2020, Betts obtained his second World Sequence ring by serving to the Dodgers to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays.
Up to now this season, Betts helps the Dodgers each as a batter and within the discipline. Because the staff’s lead-off hitter, he has a .367 on-base proportion and a .534 slugging proportion. He has a .391 batting common with runners in scoring place. Betts is batting .263 with 17 dwelling runs and 41 runs batted in.
“He hits leadoff for us, and the blokes go as he goes,” stated Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts. “There’s a pleasure that he performs the sport with. Definitely, there’s a talent set that he can do something on a baseball discipline.”
With the departure of former Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner to the Phillies, Betts has needed to play within the discipline due to accidents. Whereas he has spent the majority of his profession within the outfield, Betts has needed to play shortstop and second base.
“It’s good to have Mookie within the lineup. He definitely makes us higher,” Roberts stated. “There’s a want and openness to play on the grime …We don’t have a Trea Turner that we will plug in each day…To have Mookie penciled in and never miss a beat has been enormous.”
What’s much more outstanding about Betts is that he’s arguably one of many few Black baseball gamers who can say they’d an excellent expertise taking part in in Boston, a metropolis with a troubled racial previous that hasn’t all the time embraced its Black athletes even after they had been profitable.
However that wasn’t Betts’ expertise throughout his time in Boston. He stated it was a spot the place he got here of age as a big-league ball participant courting again to his rookie season in 2014.
“There’s two methods, particularly if you happen to’re Black, you like otherwise you hate it,” Betts stated. “For me, I cherished it. I actually loved it. I believe lots of it needed to do with me as a result of I performed so nicely. I had an absolute blast. It was among the greatest instances in my life. I had seven years of nice recollections. … It’s a metropolis the place if you happen to play nicely, they’ll throw out the pink carpet for you.”
That stated, Betts remains to be involved with the dearth of African American gamers within the recreation. Because it stands proper now, African American gamers made up simply 6.1% of gamers on opening-day rosters in response to USA At this time.
“I believe he understands that he has a accountability to be a spokesman, at instances, for African American balls gamers and I do suppose the roles altering and Main League Baseball being aligned with attempting to get some extra variety. I believe we’re slowly trending in the precise course,” Roberts stated.
Betts stated African American athletes have a tendency to hunt sports activities like soccer and basketball as a career for monetary causes. He urged Black athletes to maintain their choices open.
“I simply performed all of them and saved my choices open. I believe that’s one factor that African American households have to maintain the choices open,” Betts stated. “I do know a few of its monetary. To (cease taking part in) baseball except it’s monetary doesn’t make sense.”
However Betts can also be involved that extra African American followers aren’t popping out to the park to look at the video games. On the 2022 All-Star Recreation in Los Angeles, Betts wore a tee shirt that learn, “We Want Extra Black Followers on the Stadium.” He stated he can perceive why Black individuals don’t come out to the ballpark.
“There’s no tradition in it and so why would we go to one thing when our tradition isn’t there,” Betts stated. “It is sensible. Do I need extra Black individuals right here? Completely, nevertheless it’s my job and the remainder of our jobs to inject some tradition into it and make it appetizing for Black individuals to come back. I wish to make that Black individuals see it and so they come.”
Since his rookie season in 2014 with the Crimson Sox, the 30-year-old Betts has put collectively a profession that can most likely carry him to Cooperstown and into the Baseball Corridor of Fame. For all he has completed that’s one thing Betts aspires to after his profession is over.
“Attending to the Corridor of Fame is a purpose that I wish to obtain,” Betts stated.
Betts will probably be a part of a Juneteenth particular on Blacks in Main League Baseball on the MLB Community on Sunday, June 18. Verify your native listings for time and channel quantity.