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Betts inherited baseball acumen from dedicated mom @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Mookie Betts was probably 7 or 8 years old when he forced his first coach into retirement.

As the young boy scalded a line drive up the middle in a coach-pitch game, Diana Benedict -- Mookie's mother -- ducked for cover.

BOSTON -- Mookie Betts was probably 7 or 8 years old when he forced his first coach into retirement.

As the young boy 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.'"

:: Mother's Day 2015 ::

Perhaps the real issue was that Diana taught her son too well.

Mookie's father participated in track and basketball during his youth. But the baseball knowledge that was passed on to Betts came from mom.

Diana grew up in Paducah, Ky., 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."

Diana not only helped teach Mookie the right form, but she also taught him how to compete.

"I just remember there was one game where we couldn't get out," said Benedict. "All the kids had to bat. I said to Mookie, 'We need to get an out.' And his favorite words were, 'OK, mama.' The ball was hit to shortstop, and he caught it and ran to first and so he could be the guy, and he slid into first and tagged the base. It was funny.

"But a parent got mad at me and told me I was teaching him the wrong way to play. And I told them, 'No, I'm teaching him how to win. We need an out. We don't want to sit here all day.' But it was fun."

One thing that Red Sox veterans were highly impressed with when Betts was called up at the age of 21 last year was the type of teammate he was. Much of that was instilled in him by his mother and father.

"I think one of the things we try to instill is to be a team player. You've got to understand that different players and different teams have different skill levels," said Betts. "You don't criticize or critique your teammates if they're having a hard time. You try to encourage them just like you hope that they'll encourage you. It's been good, I think, that he's tried to give moral support to all players and help when he can."

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."

Diana Benedict thought of her son as an athlete even before he was born. When she was thinking about names, she eventually settled on Markus Lynn. Diana put the whole thing together and knew she had come up with a winner when she realized what the initials would be.

"I said, 'that's MLB.' It kind of just went in sequence," said Diana. "I figured we should just go with that and see how that goes."

A big fan of basketball also, Diana was watching Mookie Blaylock play one night, and figured that would be the perfect nickname for her boy Markus.

On Mother's Day, Mookie will be in Toronto playing for the Red Sox, and Diana will turn on her laptop, click to MLB, and settle in to watch her son lead off the game.

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."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts