Mookie's shortstop debut 'a dream come true'

April 21st, 2023

CHICAGO -- has spent the last two nights staying and sleeping in a hotel room as he and his wife, Brianna, welcomed their first son and second child to the family. 

After missing the last two games following the birth of his son, Betts flew to Chicago on Thursday, hoping to make it in time for the game. But after being stuck three miles away from the ballpark for over 40 minutes, he said, Betts finally made it to Wrigley Field five minutes after first pitch. 

A couple hours later, his long journey ended with him fulfilling a lifelong goal: Playing shortstop in a Major League game. And in typical Betts fashion, he proved once again there’s nothing he can’t handle, turning a smooth 6-3 double play which included a jump throw to help the Dodgers beat the Cubs, 6-2, on Thursday. 

“A lot of fun. That was like a dream come true,” Betts said with a huge smile on his face. “I got drafted as a shortstop and hadn’t seen it since, like, 2011. It was a lot of fun to be out there, and I’m just happy we won.”

After not starting the game because of his arrival time, Betts eventually pinch-hit for Luke Williams, who started at shortstop, in the seventh inning. In the bottom half of the inning, Betts took over for Williams at the position for the first time as a big leaguer. 

Coming into a tie game in the seventh inning is quite the situation to make your debut at arguably the toughest position on the field. But as people around him learn sooner or later, there’s nothing on a baseball diamond Betts can’t do. 

Betts didn’t get any action in the first two at-bats of the seventh. But with two on and nobody out, the Dodgers needed someone to make a play. That’s when Patrick Wisdom grounded weakly to short. Betts handled it cleanly, stepped on second and then jumped over a sliding Cody Bellinger at the bag while firing a perfect throw to Freddie Freeman at first.

“I just give Mookie a lot of credit tonight,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Getting off a plane, having a baby, being willing to come into a ballgame and take an at-bat and then go out and play a position he’s never played before at the big league level. Made a really nice play. It just speaks to his athleticism. It was a big boost for us.” 

Betts has actually not played shortstop at the pro level since 2013 when he played the position for two innings in the Arizona Fall League. His last start at short during affiliate ball came in ‘12 in Low-A with the Red Sox organization. 

As he came up through the Boston system, the big league team was loaded in the infield. That’s when Betts was forced to move to right field, a position he’s had since becoming one of the best in the league en route to six Gold Glove Awards. But Betts has remained a shortstop at heart.

Over the last few seasons, the Dodgers have let Betts be happy and run around second base whenever they have a chance. Betts also played second while representing Team USA at the World Baseball Classic this spring. 

But with the Dodgers having some serious issues and a list of injury concerns at the shortstop position, Roberts let Betts know that the team could use him at shortstop at least for the next few weeks. Without hesitation, Betts was on board. 

“I just want to win. I don’t really care where I play or what I do. I just want to win,” Betts said. “It’s fun for me. I know it’s work and it’s a job. But getting to play short is a lot of fun.”