Dodgers’ Mookie Betts makes moment special for fan and Reds rookie
Mookie Betts earned two assists on one play Sunday afternoon, creating a moment to remember for someone on both sides of the outfield fence.
“Those type of interactions are kind of everlasting,” Betts said after the game. “I think one of the last times I talked to Kobe he just sort of reminded me that when the time comes and the game’s over, leave so that somebody knows who you are, somebody recognizes you. Obviously that’s through our play. But that’s just another way to impact someone’s life.”
Cincinnati Reds rookie outfielder T.J. Friedl came up as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game at Great American Ball Park. It was the second at-bat of Friedl’s big-league career and he got his first hit, lining a home run into the right field seats.
“I remember yesterday on the big screen it said it was his MLB debut. He didn’t get a hit yesterday,” Betts said. “Obviously he hit a home run and I knew it was his first hit. I saw the guy that caught it.
“I just asked him for the ball. Just kind of sign language. I just kind of said, ‘I’ll throw you another ball but that’s his first home run. Can you throw it back?’ He didn’t hesitate. He threw it right back.”
Having retrieved the ball, Betts tossed it to the Reds dugout. It wasn’t until a half-inning later after playing left field that Friedl realized what Betts had done.
“I came in that next half inning to the dugout,” Friedl said. “One of the clubhouse guys here told me, ‘Hey, we got the ball back in. You can thank Mookie. He saw the fan who caught it, turned around and offered a bat for the ball.’ That’s when I turned around and saw Mookie running with a bat to the outfield and it was just chills, honestly.”
Betts had originally offered the fan — identified on social media as Michael Diddle of Portsmouth, Ohio — a ball but decided to up the offer because of Diddle’s cooperation, taking an autographed bat to the outfield with him in the seventh inning and passing it over the fence to him.
“I wasn’t doing it for the cameras or anything,” Betts said. “I was just doing it because he immediately threw the ball back. He didn’t even ask for anything.”
The presence of mind and thoughtfulness made a big impression on the Reds dugout.
“It’s one of the coolest, nicest gestures I’ve ever seen,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I don’t know Mookie. But, man, it just says so much about him as a person, as a player. Confirms basically everything I’ve ever heard about him. To think that selflessly or to think outside yourself that much in the heat of a game and to be that thoughtful — it’s amazing.
“That was just so classy.”
Friedl spoke with the media immediately after the game and said he wanted to find Betts to thank him before the Dodgers left town.
“That’s just first class. It’s incredible,” Friedl said. “For him to do something like that is definitely just world class out of him. I want to go over there and just say thank you in person. Thank you, that’s all I can really say because it means so much.”
Mookie Betts secures TJ Friedl’s first hit & homer ball for him by trading his own bat for it. pic.twitter.com/o3Saahf1gr
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) September 19, 2021