Mookie Betts is among several All-Stars on the Team USA roster as they look to repeat as World Baseball Classic champions, but it was a conversation the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder had about looking past accolades that resonated with manager Mark DeRosa.
The United States emerged from Pool C with a 3-1 record but as the runner-up to Team Mexico, who won their head-to-head meeting. Betts and the Team USA lineup was saddled by some inconsistency heading into a quarterfinals matchup with Team Venezuela at loanDepot Park in Miami.
As DeRosa navigates lineup and other decisions his first managerial job, advice from Betts helped provide a sense of comfort.
“I think for me the biggest thing I learned about is just trying, like you said, to create roles and create team,” DeRosa said prior to a thrilling victory against Venezuela.
“Mookie Betts came into my office and he shut the door, and he said, ‘Listen, I want you to manage these games like they’re the World Series. Like, I don’t want you to worry about hurting anybody’s feelings.’ That means a lot to me because it’s hard to manage a room full of superstars.
“And you know you’re not going to make everyone happy, even though you’re trying to. I’ve always been a guy that I didn’t want anyone not to like me in the clubhouse. But there will be two or three guys, that’s just the reality of it, that don’t get the run that they think they deserve. The hot guy’s got to play right now.”
Although DeRosa’s in-game management nearly cost Team USA, he viewed Betts delivering that message as players being fully committed to the WBC.
“It just tells me these guys are all in on this,” DeRosa said after the 9-7 win. “I know it’s hard for parent clubs to understand, but when it starts to come together and you feel like a team, you have to match the energy in this building or you’re going to get beat.
“So, yeah, there were moments in the game tonight where I wasn’t looking to tomorrow. I was just saying we got to figure out a way to keep us in this ballgame, get our offense going.”
Mookie Betts provides early spark
One day after his closed-door conversation with DeRosa, Betts helped ignite Team USA with a leadoff single to open the game and terrific read on Mike Trout’s flare into center field.
Betts going first to third base drew a throw that bounced off him and rolled into the dugout, allowing him to come home. That wound up leading to a three-run first inning for the United States.
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