The Boston Red Sox haven’t had much go right with their team this year leaving fans seeking positivity anywhere they can find it. Young prospects are one source of optimism, as the franchise has a number of players who are candidates to eventually contribute to leading the team back to winning ways. In 2012 one young player who emerged as someone to keep an eye on was infielder Mookie Betts, who if he continues to develop will play his way into Fenway within the next few years.
The diminutive Betts (5’9, 174 lbs) was a three-sport high school star in Nashville, Tennessee. He bowled and played baseball and basketball, but after hitting .509 as a senior his future was clearly in baseball. He had a scholarship to the University of Tennessee, but the Red Sox drafted him in the 5th round of the 2011 MLB Draft and he started his professional career instead.
Just 19 this past season, the right-handed Betts impressed with the NY-Penn League Lowell Spinners, mainly playing second base and hitting .271 with 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 71 games. If he continues to develop and produce it will only be a matter of time before he is writing his own chapter in the record books of the Red Sox.
Having grown up playing three sports (baseball, football, and basketball), how did you end up choosing baseball?
I just feel like it was my best opportunity. I liked playing basketball a lot but I’m too small for that, and baseball has been my love my whole life. I feel like I now have the best opportunity to make it to the top of this sport.
Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?
Not really. I watched everybody and learned from everybody, and that’s how I learned how to play, really.
You had originally committed to the University of Tennessee. Were you going to play just baseball, or other sports as well?>
I think it was just going to be baseball. I wasn’t going to try and do anything else because baseball is really time consuming.
How close were you to actually going to Tennessee?
I didn’t sign until 30 minutes before the deadline. I was pretty sure I was going to go to school, and then the last offer came and me and my parents sat, and we had to really sit and talk about it. We came to the conclusion that this is what I want to do, so school had to be done with.
How did you know the Red Sox were interested in drafting you?
They came and watched me in high school. I went out and ate with my scout and the day of (the draft), they called me and I talked to them. They asked me, “would you be willing [to sign in] the fifth round”. Of course I was. I wasn’t expecting it. Me and my mom were just sitting there watching tv and we heard my name. After that, been busting; really.
After you signed with Boston, did you do anything special to celebrate for yourself or with your family?
Two days after (the draft) I was up in Boston. After that we haven’t done anything.
What is one thing you are hoping to work on and improve the most this season?
My strength and my mental game. Baseball has got a lot of mind games going on, and I feel if I get my mind stronger I will become stronger and develop more as a player.