BOSTON — And after 1,425 days, Mookie Betts finally returned to the ballpark he once called home.
When Betts walked to home plate to lead off the game Friday night, the Fenway Park crowd gave him a loud ovation. Then Betts tipped his blue Dodgers helmet, and the applause reached a high decibel level. Then, it was time to play baseball, and Betts came to first to complete his first at-bat.
Betts, one of the most dynamic players in Red Sox history, returned to Fenway with great excitement and nostalgia, but no regrets.
As you may have heard, things have gone well for Boston, who accomplished the following: a World Series championship in 2018 that would cap his Most Valuable Player award season; four consecutive golden gloves; four consecutive trips to the All-Star Game; Three Silver Slugger Awards.
Betts has only added to his trophy case since the trade that sent him to the Dodgers, adding another World Series ring, three more All-Star appearances, two more Silver Sluggers and, this year, the probability he’ll hit 40 homers. For the first time in his life.
Although Betts hadn’t progressed much as a player by the time the Red Sox traded him before spring training in 2020, a person naturally develops in 1,425 days.
And Bets is no different. As he walked back into Fenway, Betts felt like he was remembering a different version of himself.
“This is a special chapter in my life,” Betts said. “Where I’m at now, it’s a little easier to look back and look at that young kid and say, ‘Good job.’
The kid, who debuted with the Red Sox at 21 and played his final game with his original club a week shy of his 27th birthday, is now 30 years old. Beyond baseball.
While the media litigated his departure from Boston, Betts said he was at peace. The bottom line is that the Red Sox have made offers to Betts over the years, but neither side can agree to anything.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom traded the five-tool star three months into his tenure with one year remaining under team control. In return, the Red Sox got Alex Vertugo and Connor Wong as part of their everyday lineup, and a prospect that hasn’t panned out at Jeter Downs (now with the Nationals).
“It’s business and both parties took care of themselves. So sometimes it’s not in the best interest of either, you know, but it is,” Betts said. “I’m wearing an LA jersey. I’ve got two kids. I’ve got a production company. I’ve got podcasts.” .I am very happy where I am. I am very blessed and very happy.
While Betts shared some baseball memories, he said seeing some familiar faces that helped facilitate the first few years of his career made him very excited over the weekend.
“The fans, the front office, the players, the clubs. The people who park our cars,” Betts said. Baseball is, obviously, going to be, and that’s what it is, right? That’s my job. But it was the people here that made it so enjoyable.
Betts always enjoyed blending in with his surroundings rather than being the center of attention. But there were moments Friday — and there will be more over the weekend — when he couldn’t avoid the spotlight.
“Mookie doesn’t like all the attention. But when you’re a superstar player, coming back to a great city, you’re going to get it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
He had 30-40 members of his inner circle in Boston to enjoy the weekend with Betts. Many of them have always been at home and on the road during his Red Sox years.
“I definitely want to enjoy these moments, especially for my family,” Betts said. “I’m glad everyone’s enjoying it. But I’m definitely here to take care of business.
However, the first order of business of the weekend was that the fans showered Betts with praise when he dug in for his first at-bat and Betts soaked it all in, which he did.