fb-pixel

Mookie Betts: It’s on us to make baseball ‘cool’ for Black community

Says MLB "did not do a good job" in response to George Floyd's death

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts bumps fists with fellow former Red Sox star Mookie Betts during the restart of baseball spring training on July 3.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts bumps fists with fellow former Red Sox star Mookie Betts during the restart of baseball spring training on July 3.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Mookie Betts wasn’t moved by Major League Baseball’s response in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ newest star has a goal of getting the Black community to love baseball as much as he does.

MLB released a statement nine days after the death of Floyd, the Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes on May 25. MLB was the last of the major pro sports leagues that either responded to Floyd's death or condemned racism.

“I think baseball did not do a good job with that, but voices were heard,” Betts said Monday on a video conference call with reporters. “That’s the main thing, that we get our voices heard to make some changes. I know it’s not all going to be at one time, but a little change here, a change there, we’ll eventually get to where we need to be.”

Betts said his goal of bringing baseball into Black communities is “more of a personal thing.”

Advertisement



The percentage of Blacks in big league baseball remains low and some think the sport has an image problem because it's too boring.

Betts, the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player with the Red Sox, is one of the game’s biggest stars, but his national profile lags behind that of other sports stars who juggle multiple high-profile endorsements.

“Obviously, MLB can help,” Betts said, “but I think it’s on us, as in the Black players, and kind of make baseball cool because I think that’s where the disconnect is. Us, as Black people, don’t think it’s that much fun so we have to find a way to make it fun for the Black community and get more guys here.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team held a video conference call to discuss issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and social injustice.

Advertisement



“Guys asked questions, guys gave thoughts and opinions, and it was very well received,” said Roberts, the son of a Japanese mother and Black father. “I just don't want us to lose the traction, the momentum, the conversations that we've had over the last month. That's something that any person of color I think would agree with me, that it just can't be a footnote.”

Roberts said he'd like to see more Blacks hired throughout baseball.

“To have people that look like you around you, sharing space, having those conversations daily certainly will move the needle ahead,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

Ohtani on mound

Shohei Ohtani threw competitive pitches off the mound at Angel Stadium for the first time in two years.

Ohtani struggled with his control in the Angels’ intrasquad game, walking eight batters on about 50 pitches. The two-way star and manager Joe Maddon weren’t overly concerned about the results of another key day in Ohtani’s return from Tommy John surgery.

“I was able to throw all my pitches today, so I’m just going to try to build on that,” Ohtani said through a translator. “Obviously it felt a lot different from my bullpens, especially because I was unfamiliar with pitching to my teammates. That kind of threw me off a little bit.”

Ohtani hadn't pitched at the Big A since June 9, 2018, when he left a game with what was initially called a blister. Ohtani was shut down as a pitcher for three months, and the AL Rookie of the Year only returned for one outing in September before it was determined he needed elbow surgery.

Advertisement



“I just saw a guy that didn’t have good rhythm in his delivery,” Maddon said. “He just wasn’t as sharp as he can be, obviously.”

Ohtani served solely as a designated hitter for the Angels last season, hitting .286 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs. He intends to resume his two-way career when the majors' 60-game regular season begins later this month.

Ohtani has gradually built up his arm strength since spring training through workouts at Angel Stadium amid the pandemic. He wasn’t scheduled to return to the mound this season until May, and the Angels hope he can make one start per week for the duration of the two-month regular season.

Ohtani struggled with his control during his first spring training with the Angels in 2018, but he largely shook off those woes when he got to the regular season.

“I’ve been told it looked like that a couple of years ago, and there’s nothing to be concerned or alarmed,” said Maddon, who returned to the Angels organization in the offseason. “He’s healthy. He walked away good.”

Mets, Yankees on 9/11 anniversary

The New York Mets will host the crosstown Yankees on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next season, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The clubs will play at Citi Field in a game sure to be full of emotions for the city that’s also reported over 18,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths this year. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Major League Baseball has not yet released next season’s schedule.

Advertisement



“I can’t imagine how powerful and how emotional of an event that could be,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

The 20th anniversary game will be played not far from the site of demolished Shea Stadium, where Hall of Famer Mike Piazza hit a memorable home run for the Mets against the Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first major sporting event in the city following the attacks. New York wore hats honoring the city’s first responders for the game.

Two Royals positive

The Royals say righthander Brad Keller and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn have tested positive for COVID-19. The 24-year-old Keller is in his third season with Kansas City after joining the organization as a Rule 5 selection in December 2017. “Of course I was devastated when I heard the news ... that I had two positive tests,” Keller said in a statement Tuesday. “I was sent home yesterday and was hoping the first test was a false positive, but I got the word today that the second test also came back positive and I have to go into isolation. I am experiencing minor symptoms that remind me more of an allergy attack. Other than that, I feel great and have no other symptoms.” The 26-year-old O’Hearn said he was shocked his test was positive because he’s asymptomatic and feels fine physically. He’s also in quarantine … The Giants say they are “suspending workouts at Oracle Park, pending the results of tests conducted this past weekend.” On Monday, the club announced two people had tested positive for the coronavirus without providing further details on whether the two were players, coaches or staff. Prospect Hunter Bishop and pitcher Luis Madero, in the 60-player pool, already tested positive … The Indians are keeping outfielder Franmil Reyes away from training camp after they spotted him on social media attending a weekend holiday party without wearing a mask. Manager Terry Francona said Reyes is not in any trouble with the team. But by not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask he exposed himself — and his teammates — to infection, and the team is being overly cautious … Clayton Kershaw will make his franchise-record ninth opening day start for the Dodgers., who open the 60-game season on July 23 at home against the rival Giants. Kershaw is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA on Opening Day.

Advertisement