Book it: Betts incorporates mental health in pregame prep

May 15th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When Dodgers star outfielder Mookie Betts gets to the ballpark, he usually takes some time to chill before getting his pregame work done. Following a slow start at the plate, Betts has constantly been working and tweaking his mechanics.

But Betts’ best work doesn’t come in the cage or on the field. It happens when he’s reading and listening to books that help his mind.

“I think just the mental side of it has been the biggest difference. Just being more positive,” Betts said, when asked where his biggest adjustment has been during his recent hot streak. “Looking for the next opportunity instead of dwelling for the last one. Just trying to enjoy each and every day.”

Betts couldn’t recall exactly when he started to focus on his mind just as much as his physical development, but it has become an integral part of his daily routine. He is currently listening to actor Will Smith’s book (though he says it’s really long) and has become a big fan of motivational speaker David Goggins, who is the only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller.

When asked which five people -- excluding family -- he would love to have dinner with, Betts quickly mentioned Goggins, Smith and President Barack Obama. He didn’t mention other athletes -- not because he doesn’t value those perspectives, but he’s intrigued about the life lessons that would be shared during that dinner.

“I never thought I would say that,” Betts said. “But here we are.”

Here he is, both physically and now mentally. Betts, who will be a big part of the Dodgers’ success over the next decade, is learning to deal with failure much better since he started focusing on his mental health. He’s still one of the most competitive people in the world, which makes it challenging at times, but he has learned to understand that failure doesn’t come from a lack of trying.

Bad days will happen, especially during a grueling 162-game season in baseball. Working on mechanics will continue to be a big part of Betts’ days, but keeping his mind sharp has become his secret weapon in a lot of ways.

“We don’t play this game long enough to dwell and be sad all the time,” Betts said. “It’s just trying to enjoy each at-bat, each day and my goal is to pretty much make history every at-bat, and that’s whatever it is.”