'You got to do it': Betts enters first Home Run Derby

June 30th, 2023

DENVER -- Now that has officially been named an All-Star Game starter -- along with teammates and -- the seven-time All-Star Betts committed to participate in his first T-Mobile Home Run Derby on July 10 at Seattle's T-Mobile Park.

Betts joined Toronto’s and Seattle’s as the three players to commit so far to this year’s event.

“You know, the wife. She said, 'You got to do it,'” Betts said laughing, prior to logging two hits and an RBI in Thursday night's 14-3 win at Coors Field. “The last thing I haven’t done, so I’m going to do it. Have fun with it, and we’ll see what happens.”

In the past, Betts had been opposed to participating in the Derby because of the number of swings it requires. But at age 30, Betts knows he needs to start taking advantage of opportunities while he still can.

Betts has accomplished just about everything in the Major Leagues, from winning a 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award to making seven All-Star appearances to earning two World Series rings. But now, he’ll check off the Derby for the first time.

Betts' goal during the event? Have fun … and, as his mother, Diana, told him on the phone when he brought up the idea, just don’t finish last.

“I’m 5-foot-9, 170 pounds,” Betts said. “I don’t think that many guys my size win the Home Run Derby. When I told my mom, she wasn’t too thrilled. She told me, 'I didn’t raise you to come in last, so the goal now is to not come in last.' ... I don’t think she’s a huge fan of seeing her son lose.”

Downplaying his ability is very on brand for Betts. But in reality, the former MVP entered Thursday leading the Dodgers with 20 home runs, putting him on pace to hit 40 this season. A year ago, Betts set a career high with 35 homers.

“I applaud him for doing it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think it’s great for the fans. I think it’s great for Mookie.”

Dodgers first-base coach Clayton McCullough will be pitching to Betts at the Derby. Betts said McCullough is his “favorite coach ever” and that’s why he was his selection. McCullough has never pitched at the Derby, but was excited when Betts brought up the idea.

“I’m pumped for him,” McCullough said. “He’s done so many things in his game. But for him to want to do something like this and step out from his norm -- I think, you look at him compared to like [Aaron] Judge, [Shohei] Ohtani, and when you see Mookie Betts and what he’ll be able to do at his size, I think for him to want to put himself out there and do it is cool and for him to ask me, I’m excited as well.”

Just this season, Betts has exceeded expectations in how well he has played second base. He has also been more than solid at shortstop, a position he hadn’t played in a decade before this season. That’s not even including his successful bowling career that he does for fun.

Betts hasn’t shown any weaknesses in his game. Now it’s time to test that in what promises to be an exciting Derby.

“I don’t know off the top of my head,” Betts said, when asked if he’s had success at T-Mobile Park. “I just know it’s big and I’m small. So we’ll see.”