Home Run Derby Decides Midwest League All-Star Game
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Rays catcher Chris Betts did not record an official at-bat in the Midwest League All-Star Game, instead drawing walks in both of his plate appearances. He scored no runs, and he drove in no runs. He made no spectacular defensive play, and yet he was named the game’s most valuable player. And it all somehow made sense.
Well over an hour after he was pulled from the game in the wave of substitutions that are part of every all-star game, Betts and his teammates learned that if the all-star game was tied after nine innings, the winner would be determined by a mano a mano home run derby.
A game that had been dominated by impressive pitching ended up being decided with no pitcher or defense on the field. Peoria’s Delvin Perez stole third and scored on a throwing error to tie the game at three in the eighth inning. It remained deadlocked through the ninth inning. With no further pitchers to use, the league had opted to figure out another way to determine a winner. In choosing a home run derby, the league picked an alternative that the crowd and seemingly everyone on social media strongly approved.
Since Betts was the runaway winner of Monday night’s home run derby. He was the obvious choice to represent the East. Blaze Alexander was chosen to represent the West.
Alexander led off the home run derby and quickly found that the air was not helping the ball travel. Eventually he hit one home run shortly before his 90 seconds ran out.
Betts had hit 24 home runs over three rounds to win the home run derby on Monday, so hitting two home runs in 90 seconds seemed to be a minor obstacle. But as his turn began, much like Alexander, he found that the ball wasn’t carrying, even after he hit several seemingly towering shots.
He didn’t hit his first home run until there was less than 30 seconds remaining in his turn. But he quickly followed his first homer with another, setting off a massive celebration by his East teammates. Betts joined them, but not until after he’d tossed his bat into center field with an epic bat toss.
“I didn’t want to throw it, but I looked over at my guys and they yelled, 'Throw it, throw it, throw it.’ So I had to,” Betts said.
Betts had tossed his bat after winning the home run derby on Monday. It went viral and ended up with him appearing on MLB Network on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s been an amazing week for the 2015 second-round pick. Baseball is fun again after proving to be quite trying for quite a while.
After being drafted in the second round, Betts missed his first pro season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Then, not long after he came back from the surgery, his throwing arm started hurting again. He tried to ignore it because he feared he would need a second Tommy John surgery. Eventually he learned that it was bone chips, not ligament damage, but he needed a second surgery and missed more time, and he played only three games in 2017.
“I got into a really bad rut. My circle of people I have around me—my girlfriend, my dad, my agent—they let me learn and do my thing and pulled me out of it. I never thought I’d be back here two years ago,” Betts said.
This year, Betts earned an all-star berth by hitting 12 home runs for Bowling Green in the first half. His batting average (.226) isn’t where he wants it to be, but overall, this is the first pro season he’s had where he’s gotten to do what he felt like he could do. And now he has a home run derby and all-star game MVP trophy to validate his recovery.
“Now I’m finally back to where I have worked to be. I still have so far to go," Betts said. "It’s A-ball, but to me this is the biggest victory in the world. It’s me here playing baseball. It’s like living the dream, finally the dream I’ve worked for for so long. I’m doing it.”