‘Thankful’ Betts receives long ovation in Boston

MLB

Mookie Betts received a lengthy ovation from fans at Fenway Park in his first game back there Friday night as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Betts, the former Red Sox star who was traded to the Dodgers in 2020 — to the chagrin of many Boston fans — drew roars from the Fenway faithful before he stepped to the plate to lead off the first inning. He saluted the Red Sox dugout, touched his hand to his heart and then took off his helmet and gestured to the fans, with Boston manager Alex Cora and third baseman Rafael Devers among those on the team applauding.

He then stepped in to face pitcher Kutter Crawford, who was wearing the same No. 50 Betts wore for six seasons in Boston, and fouled out to first base.

Betts was traded to the Dodgers in 2020, going to Los Angeles with David Price for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. (Verdugo hit a leadoff home run for the Red Sox on Friday night.)

Betts had turned down a $300 million contract offer from the Red Sox before the trade; he was a year away from free agency and ultimately signed a a 12-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers.

Speaking ahead of the game Friday night, Betts was asked about the failed contract negotiations at the time.

“I’ll let Chaim (Bloom, chief baseball officer) and those guys explain that or (owner) John Henry, whoever. I’ll let them explain it,” Betts told reporters. “If they ever want to explain it, I’ll let them explain it. We’re not even there so it doesn’t really even matter. We’re in L.A. and those things, they’re in the past. We probably just have to go ahead and leave it alone. But if someone was to explain it, I would let him do it.”

As rain fell on Fenway prior to the game, Betts and Bloom were seen talking and exchanging some smiles.

Betts said time has helped him find closure about his six-year tenure with the Red Sox.

“I think because it took so long before I came back that I didn’t really have much of a choice,” he said.

Following the trade, the coronavirus pandemic hit. As Betts adjusted to that reality, the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series title. He and wife have since had a second child, and he’s started a production company and podcast.

“I think it slowly kind of went into the back of my mind,” Betts said. “Four years later, I’m happy to be here.”

He also insists he doesn’t carry any hard feelings about the decision the Red Sox made to trade him.

“It’s business. And both sides have got to take care of themselves. Sometimes it may not be in the best interest for both,” Betts said. “That’s not where we are now. We’re in an LA jersey. … I’m super happy where I’m at.”

Betts said 30-40 family members and friends will be in the stands during the series.

While they will add some familiar faces to Fenway faces, only Cora, Devers and pitcher Chris Sale remain from the 2018 World Series team that Betts was a part of.

“It’s just the way the cookie kind of crumbled. Priorities changed. Things changed. Players change. Nobody really keeps a team together forever, right?” Betts said. “We had our run.”

Cora exchanges texts with Betts about twice a month.

“The thing that I’m really enjoying now is that he’s able to kind of show people who he is,” Cora said. “It’s not about Boston or LA, I think it’s mature kid who has two kids, the wife and the family and is kind of like, ‘You know, what I’m comfortable now.'”

One example Cora gave of how their friendship remains tight is how Betts was one of players to first reached out to him after Cora was given a yearlong suspension by MLB in 2020 for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

“He was one of the few to say in contact to make sure Alex was doing well,” Cora said.

Though he only will have about 72 hours in town, Betts does plan to soak in as much of Boston as he can.

“I think all the circumstances allowed me to have closure a little easier. As far as wondering if I was going to be with the Red Sox, yeah, I thought that was going to be the case,” Betts said. “But it didn’t happen. And that’s OK. That’s part of life. So it’s OK. Turned out to kind of be a blessing. And, like I said, I’m super happy.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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