It’s been nearly four years since Mookie Betts last played at Fenway Park. A lot has changed since then.
A few months after scoring the winning run for the Red Sox during their final game of the 2019 season, Betts was shipped off to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster trade. He promptly signed a 12-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers and helped them win the World Series in 2020, ensuring that the Red Sox will regret trading him forever.
On Friday, Betts will return to Fenway Park for the first time as a player since Sep. 29, 2019. Betts knows he’s going to be the center of attention, but he’s not letting it get to his head.
Mookie Betts Return
In an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe, Betts said, “I just want it to be about baseball. I know it’s going to be cool, but I don’t want it to be about me.”
Indeed, Betts isn’t the only former Red Sox returning to Fenway. J.D. Martinez, Enrique Hernandez and Ryan Brasier will also be back, making this weekend a mini-Red Sox reunion of sorts.
While all of them contributed to Boston’s success in recent seasons, none of them were as talented or as popular as Betts. Drafted and developed by the Red Sox, Betts debuted in Boston in 2014 and was an instant star, wowing fans with his elite defense, incredible hitting and sensational baserunning. He was at the center of the club’s dominance during the second half of last decade, winning AL MVP honors in 2018 and leading the team to a World Series title that year.
Betts was more than a great player, too, as he was also a terrific teammate and a model citizen off the field. He made headlines for being a tremendous bowler and for feeding the homeless, not for dating celebrities or getting into trouble like many star athletes. And as you can see in the Globe interview, he was good with the press, too, and thrived in a tough city to play for.
He was on pace to be one of the greatest athletes in Boston history before the team abruptly traded him in early 2020, crushing their fans in the process. The reasons were purely financial, as the front office wanted to slash payroll and feared losing him in free agency for nothing.
Three and a half years later, many Red Sox fans (myself included) still have not forgiven the team for trading Betts, and never will. It was a colossal error that ranks with the franchise’s sale of Babe Ruth, as Betts remains on pace to be one of the greatest players in baseball history.
So it will be fun to have Betts back in town this weekend, even if he’s not totally comfortable with the attention. I’m sure he’ll get a standing ovation every time he steps up to the plate or does something remarkable in the field. It will be fun to see him again and reminisce about the good ole days when the Red Sox were a dominant powerhouse rather than a middling “underdog” on the fringe of contention.
It will be sad too, though, to see Betts in another uniform and wonder how the team let him get away.
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