Mookie receives stirring ovation in first appearance at Fenway in 4 years

Mookie receives stirring ovation in first appearance at Fenway in 4 years

August 25th, 2023

BOSTON — And after 1,425 days, Mookie Betts finally returned to the ballpark he once called home.  

When Betts stepped to home plate to lead off Friday night’s game, the Fenway Park crowd gave him a loud ovation. Betts then tipped his blue Dodgers helmet, and the applause went to a higher decibel level. Then, it was time to play baseball, and Betts popped to first to complete his first at-bat.

Betts, one of the most dynamic players in Red Sox history, returned to Fenway with a heavy dose of excitement and nostalgia, but not remorse.

As you might have heard, things have turned out pretty well for the man who accomplished the following feats in Boston: A World Series championship in 2018 to cap his Most Valuable Player Award season; Four consecutive Gold 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 that he will hit 40 homers for the first time in his career.

While Betts didn’t have much improvement as a player by the time the Red Sox traded him on the eve of Spring Training in 2020, a person naturally evolves in 1,425 days.

And Betts is no different. As he strode back into Fenway, Betts felt like he was remembering a different version of himself.

“This was a special chapter in my life,” Betts said. “And where I’m at now, it’s a little bit easier to look back and look at that young kid and tell him, ‘Good job.”’

That kid who made his debut with the Red Sox at 21-years-old, and played his final game with his original club a week shy of his 27th birthday, is now a 30-year-old with a lot going on in his life beyond baseball.

While his departure from Boston will be litigated in the media from now until the end of time, Betts said he is at peace with it. The bottom line is that the Red Sox made offers to Betts throughout the years, but the sides could never agree on anything.

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, three months into his tenure, traded a five-tool star with one year left of team control. In return, the Red Sox got Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong, two players who are part of their everyday mix, and a prospect who didn’t pan out in Jeter Downs (currently with Nationals).

“It’s business and both sides took care of themselves. And so sometimes it may not be in the best interest for both, you know, but it is what it is,” said Betts. “I’m wearing an L.A. jersey. I’ve got two kids. I’ve got a production company. I’ve got podcasts. I’m super happy where I’m at. I’m very blessed and very happy.”

While Betts shared a few baseball memories, he said that seeing some of the familiar faces that helped ease the first few years of his career is what excited him most about the weekend.

“The fans, the front office, the players, the clubbies. The people that park our cars,” Betts said. “Those are the people I remember the most, the people that made my stay here so enjoyable. Baseball obviously, is going to be, it is what it is, right? It’s my job. But the people here are what made it so enjoyable.”

Betts has always enjoyed blending into his environment rather than being the center of attention. But there were moments on Friday — and there will be more throughout the weekend — when he won’t be able to avoid the spotlight.

“Mookie doesn’t like a whole lot of attention. But when you’re a superstar player, coming back to a great city, you’re gonna get it,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Betts had 30-40 members of his inner circle in Boston to enjoy the weekend with him. Many of those people were ever-present during his Red Sox years, both at home and on the road.

“I definitely want to enjoy these moments, especially for my family,” Betts said. “I’m glad everybody’s enjoying it. But I’m definitely here to take care of business.”

The Dodgers started the night at 78-48, holding a 12-game lead in the National League West. At 68-60, the Red Sox were 3 1/2 games back in the chase for the third American League Wild Card spot.

However, the first order of business of the weekend was for the fans to shower Betts with appreciation as he dug in for his first at-bat and for Betts to soak it all in, which he did.

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