"I knew it was going to be fun." Mookie Betts on returning to Boston, life after the trade and more. - Boston Globe (2023)

Betts gets third base. He kept walking while right-back Stevie Wilkerson ran a few steps and passed the ball.

Betts slid across the plate to win the game, jumping up and screaming surrounded by happy teammates. Everyone clapped.


Do you imagine replacing this player? But a few months later, the Red Sox did just that, sending Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now he's returning to Fenway Park on Friday, although he hasn't been to Boston since the day after that fateful slip.

108 stitches

The Globe Red Sox Reporter publishes a bulletin on all things baseball weekdays during the season and weekly during the offseason.

"I just wish it was about baseball," Betts told the Globe of the Dodgers playing the Guardians earlier in the week. "I know it's going to be fun, but I don't want it to be about me. But that's how it is, and whatever happens, I'm grateful for that.”

"I knew it was going to be fun." Mookie Betts on returning to Boston, life after the trade and more. - Boston Globe (1)
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The Red Sox are the only team in Betts' career that Betts hasn't played with on his way into the Hall of Fame.

You will face off against a competitor who is at the peak of his powers. Betts is an MLB all-time leader in OPS. He scores and makes shots while regularly playing on the right wing, second base and as a stopper for a strong team.

"It's still the same Mookie. "He was really good at baseball, great guy, great teammate," said Ryan Brasier, who played for Betts in Boston. The game has now returned to Los Angeles. "It was great for me to see him play second base like he's done throughout his career. He just got up and started playing.


“He could be a catcher and make it. I'm serious, he's just that good.

related:A tale of two Grand Slams: Mookie Betts, Pablo Reyes and Chaim Bloom lead the Red Sox

Same player, different place

Despite being the same player, Betts is a different guy. He will be 31 in October, is married and has two children.

Betts said there will be a "huge crowd" of friends and family attending the show this weekend. They include his wife Brianna, daughter Kynlee and son Kaj, who was born in April.

"Dude, we all love Boston," Bates said. “We all grew up there. Wonderful memories. Now it's a brand new band, really everything is brand new. Maybe some people will have different feelings, but I think it will be fun."

Betts still watches every Red Sox game and speaks to head coach Alex Cora once a week.

"Air conditioning has always been a huge part of my life," Bates said. "We don't always talk about baseball, it's about life and family." He will always be a friend.

"I knew it was going to be fun." Mookie Betts on returning to Boston, life after the trade and more. - Boston Globe (2)
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Cora, who was not working for the Red Sox at the time of the contract, was suspended from Major League Baseball.

“We texted and talked. But it wasn't a surprise to see him in a different uniform," Cora said. "I'm done."

Betts also played more postseason games with the Dodgers (34) than the Red Sox (21). But part of him still wants to know why it happened.


Be a Red Sox player for life?

Before trading day, Betts was expected to play his entire career with the Red Sox. As he approaches free agency in 2020, his intention is to strike a deal to stay in Boston.

"Most people don't believe it. But why should I lie? I lied," he said. "This is my team. Just because I didn't accept the invitation doesn't mean I don't want to be there. The game has a commercial aspect.

"We're looking for a house in Boston. We thought everything would be fine. I think both sides are playing slowly and everything will work out. We're negotiating, I think."

Betts said he never gave the Red Sox any ultimatums or numbers for them to meet.

"Normal negotiations are exchanges," he said. "Of course I will stand firm, as you should stand firm. But I think we'll keep talking.

Betts insisted the Red Sox had never offered him a $300 million contract in ten years.

"That never happened," he said. "I know people say what they want to say. But no, they don't. Are not".

"I knew it was going to be fun." Mookie Betts on returning to Boston, life after the trade and more. - Boston Globe (3)

Traded early in spring training in 2020, Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract with the Dodgers in July of that year.

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After October's World Series championship game, Betts became a Los Angeles icon, representing his team and sport in the media.

"That's not how I see myself," Bates said. "I was just a kid who wanted to go out and play baseball. But the Dodgers made me do certain things and I'm happy with that. I have accepted these things.

“First of all you have to know how to play the game and that is the hardest part. Nobody listens to the other. I take care of my work in the field. If there's an opportunity off the field, I take it. But nothing stands in my way. everyday work.

related:Wondering which Boston jock will go next, and other thoughts

Hollywood lettering

Betts fears Boston's reputation and is careful not to let his activities on the pitch distract him. Now he's founded a marketing company, started a podcast and made a documentary about Jackie Robinson.

"I'm just in a different place than Boston," Bates said. "Maybe in Boston I could do what I've been doing for the last few years. But I wasn't in the same situation as now.

“Los Angeles has more options than Boston. Nobody can deny it; it's a fact. But it's a combination of more opportunities and some growth.”

Last weekend, LeBron James hit two homers against the Marlins from his penthouse at Dodger Stadium.


He saluted James as he sprinted past the backboard after hitting his first home run. After the second home run, James dramatically raised his hat to Betts and the crowd cheered.

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Mookie Bates 🤝🏾 LeBron James

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints)21. August 2023

Bates later said it was a spontaneous decision. But it's a sign that he's increasingly connecting with celebrities.

"Mookie was a superstar, but he didn't know he was a superstar," said Dodgers coach Dave Roberts. "He's very humble, but he's accepted Los Angeles and accepted himself.

"Anyone who wears a baseball uniform should be able to play in a city like Boston. This increases expectations.

"But it's hard just being a baseball player because there's more to it than that." I think he appreciates the fact that he has more privacy in Los Angeles. It's not that intense because there are a lot of celebrities. This is something else."

related:A Dodgers fan named his daughter after Mookie Betts after he was involved in a home run

everything is for the best

Betts paused when asked if, in hindsight, the deal was the best thing that could have happened to him.

"In hindsight, that's how it is. But I don't know what my life would have been like if I stayed there," he said. "But what I did in Los Angeles was a great blessing to me, my children and my family.

"Except for the taxes, I have nothing negative to say."

Bates is a full-time resident of California and will be returning to Tennessee for the off-season. Kylie will start school in Los Angeles in the fall.

"It's not cold, you can go to Disneyland," Bates said. "What do not you like?"

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Aside from Devers and the occasional Chris Sale when he's fit, the Red Sox have had a brand new roster since Betts left. However, Betts is looking forward to meeting the coaches, staff and other old friends.

"My only plan for this weekend is to enjoy the atmosphere and the fans and have that experience again," he said. "I missed."

Piotr Abraham can be contacted at:peter.abraham@globe.com. follow him@Pete Abbey


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