Image credit: Rays prospect Chris Betts (Photo by J.J. Cooper)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Chris Betts is a catcher, which means that most days, his success is measured by the success of others.
He may go 0-for-4 at the plate, but if the pitchers have a good night, he’s done his job. If he goes 4-for-4 but he and the pitcher don’t work well together, he has to do better the next day.
On Monday night, the goals were much more personal and much more cut and dried. In the Midwest League home run derby, all Betts was asked to do was to hit the ball very hard, very often. And he succeeded.
The Rays catcher hit seven home runs in the first round, nine more in the second and eight in the third to edge D-Backs outfielder Alek Thomas for the Midwest League home run derby title.
“That was one of the most fun nights I’ve had. It’s been a long time coming,” Betts said. “Usually I take the first round of batting practice and then rush down to the bullpen or go in and talk to the pitcher. It’s cool to just go out there and swing as hard as you can.”
With the win, Betts was handed $1,000 in cash along with a plaque. He’s keeping the plaque and $900—he gave the BP pitcher $100 tip.
Betts made it look relatively easy Monday night. He had the most home runs in the first round, the second round and the finals. In the finals, he actually called timeout with plenty of time left, needing just two home runs to clinch the title.
“I called timeout because I wanted to be with the boys and be out there with them. For the last two weeks all I’ve heard is ‘You’re going to win it.’ I could not have had more doubt about that,” Betts said.
In his last batting practice before the home run derby, Betts tried to hit the ball out in the last round. He topspun five balls to second base. He wasn’t all that confident that he would escape the first round. But his teammates were.
When Betts hit the final home run, that same group of Bowling Green teammates drenched him with a Gatorade bucket shower as part of a celebration at home plate.
Rays C Chris Betts is the 2019 MWL HR Derby champ much to the delight of his Bowling Green teammates. pic.twitter.com/sTqOUJUJ00
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 18, 2019
Come Thursday, Betts will once again be wearing his chest protector for Bowling Green. His success will be measured by what he and his pitcher did. But on Monday, Betts got to be Babe Ruth for a night. And it was a whole lot of fun.