Mookie Betts exceeded lofty expectations in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, finishing second in National League MVP voting and helping the organization win its first World Series championship since 1988.
For as much as he shined on the diamond, Betts had just as big of an impact off of it as well. He was praised by teammates after delivering a motivational speech in Spring Training and helping elevate those around him.
Austin Barnes can attest to this, as he gave credit to Betts during the year for helping transform his swing during the 2020 season. Barnes more recently elaborated on their work together, explaining how it was a matter of simplifying it, via AM 570 L.A. Sports:
“He just kind of broke it down a little bit. He kind of simplified it for me and kind of told me what his thoughts were, what he felt like needed to happen at the plate to be successful, and it kind of slowed everything down for me a little bit. Hitting is hard, but I was making it really hard. I was probably trying to do a little too much and probably over-swinging a little bit. Just gave me some clarity and I tried to put the barrel on the ball.”
In 29 games last season, Barnes raised his batting average by 41 points from the previous year and enjoyed his best offensive showing by OPS+ since 2017. He hit an overall .244/.353/.314 with three doubles, one home run and nine RBI in 104 plate appearances.
Barnes went on to bat .320 in the postseason, collecting two hits in each series and earning four starts in the Fall Classic. He would score the tying run in the sixth inning of the deciding Game 6 on a wild pitch, which was made possible after hitting a one-out single off Blake Snell.
Like Barnes, Cody Bellinger offered high praise for Betts, citing his work ethic and the positivity he brought to the Dodgers clubhouse. He also credited Betts for paying attention to the little things and making sure to go over them with his teammates.
Dave Roberts praises Betts for being ‘engaged’ with teammates
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gave his reasoning for why Betts was able to connect so well with his teammates. “You can do some digging on a player, you can look at the back of a baseball card, but you don’t really know until you know and you spend time with a player,” Roberts said.
“For me, I just never have seen a superstar player be as engaged as Mookie is. I use the word present. Whatever he’s doing, whoever he’s talking to, he’s engaged and he’s present. I think that just speaks for what type of character and teammate he is.
“I think it manifests itself because it let everyone know you can help others, be in tune with other people, teammates, coaches, front office, and still perform. I think people get so caught up on their own plight and their own world. I think Mookie has this ability and understanding that to win a championship, you’ve got to elevate everybody around you; that’s coaches included.
“He just has a real good clarity and feel to deliver that to everyone. He’s made me a better coach and I’m sure everybody can say he impacted them in some way positively at some point.”
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