Markus Lynn "Mookie" Betts (born October 7, 1992) is an American professional baseball right fielder for the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball (MLB). Betts is listed at 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) and 180 pounds (82 kg), and bats and throws right handed.
Betts was drafted by the Red Sox in 2011, and made his MLB debut in the 2014 season, sharing time between second base and the outfield. He became the Red Sox starting center fielder in 2015, before moving to right field in 2016.
Early baseball career
Betts attended John Overton High School in Nashville, Tennessee, playing second base, shortstop and outfield. In 2011, his senior year, he batted .509 with 30 steals and was an honorable mention inclusion for the Louisville Slugger High School All-American list.
In 2010, his junior year at Overton, Betts batted .549 with 24 steals. In November that year, Betts signed a letter of commitment to attend the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship, also getting recruited by Vanderbilt University, Mississippi State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
At Overton, Betts was also a standout basketball player, named MVP of the District 12-AAA league his senior season while averaging 14.1 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals per game; and also named Class AAA All-City Player of the Year for the Nashville, Tennessee metropolitan area. His junior year, Betts was named MVP of the District 12-AAA tournament. Betts also excelled in bowling, named the Tennessee boys Bowler of the Year in 2010 with a high score of 290.
The Boston Red Sox selected Betts in the fifth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft with the 172nd overall pick. After protracted negotiations, Betts subsequently rescinded his commitment to the University of Tennessee, signing a $750,000 contract with the Red Sox organization
Betts played one game in 2011 for the GCL Red Sox of the rookie Gulf Coast League, getting two hits in four at bats. In 2012, he batted .267 and stole 20 bases in 71 games for the short season Lowell Spinners of the New York–Penn League. He played shortstop regularly, but looked more comfortable at second base
Betts started the 2013 season with the Greenville Drive of the Low A South Atlantic League. In 76 games, Betts batted .296 with a 19-game hitting streak and was selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
On July 9, Betts was promoted to the Salem Red Sox of the High A Carolina League, batting .341 in 51 games to complete the 2013 season with a combined .314 average in 127 games between Greenville and Salem with 15 home runs and 38 steals. Betts was named Offensive Player of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year in the Boston minor league system, leading all Sox minors players with a .506 slugging percentage, while his .314 batting average ranked him third behind Alex Hassan (.338) and Garin Cecchini (.322). Betts was a second-team inclusion on the Baseball America Minor League All-Star Team for 2013, with the first-team selection for second base going to Marcus Semien, an infielder in the Chicago White Sox system. Betts subsequently played 16 games for the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League, batting .271.
Betts opened the 2014 season with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Double-A Eastern League, batting .355 in 54 games to lead the Eastern League through June 2. On June 3, Betts was promoted to the Pawtucket Red Sox of the Triple-A International League, batting .322 and reaching base in all 23 games with the PawSox.
In 2013 and 2014, Betts reached base in 66 straight regular-season games plus five playoff games for a combined streak of 71 games. Because official baseball streak records do not include playoff games, Betts' streak has been listed at 66 games; Kevin Millar and Kevin Youkilis hold the official minor league record for consecutive games reaching base, at 71 games, with Minor League Baseball lacking data on the statistic prior to 1997.
Since mid-May 2014, Betts has played outfield in addition to second base. In 2013, four-time All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million contract extension with the Red Sox, leading to speculation that the Red Sox would groom Betts for a new position.
Betts was promoted to the Red Sox on June 28, 2014. He had previously been selected for the All-Star Futures Game, but was replaced following his promotion to the Major Leagues.
Betts made his debut on June 29, recording his first major league career hit against Yankees starter Chase Whitley in the fourth inning. He hit his first home run on July 2 off the Cubs' Carlos Villanueva. He then was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on July 19 when Shane Victorino was activated from the disabled list, and was recalled to Boston on August 1. Betts was optioned back to Pawtucket in August, and recalled again on August 18.
On August 29, Betts hit his first career grand slam against Rays pitcher Chris Archer in a Red Sox victory at Tropicana Field. At age 21, Betts became the youngest Sox player to hit a grand slam in 49 years Betts spent most of the 2014 season playing in the outfield, but on September 11 manager John Farrell announced that Betts would play second base "fairly regularly" following injuries to regular second basemen Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt.
Betts split the 2014 season fairly evenly between AA, AAA and MLB, playing 52 major league games. He performed well for the Red Sox, hitting .291 with five home runs; and played over half his innings in center field.
On April 6, 2015, Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, he hit a home run in his second at bat, becoming the third youngest player to hit a home run on Opening Day for the Red Sox. On April 13, 2015, in the home opener at Fenway Park against the Washington Nationals, Betts arguably had the most exciting performance of his career. He robbed Bryce Harper of a home run, stole two bases on one play and hit a home run into the Monster seats, all in the first three innings.
Betts was named the AL Player of the Week for the week ending on June 21, 2015. Within that week, Betts batted .581 (18 for 31) with two home runs, two triples, three doubles, seven RBI and eight runs. He led the AL in batting average, hits, on-base percentage (.594), total bases (31), and slugging percentage (1.000) that week. In the latter part of the season, he spent some time in right field, leading to speculation that he would move there permanently to allow teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr., to take over in center field. Betts ended the 2015 season with a .291 batting average, with 92 runs scored, 77 RBIs, 18 home runs, and 21 stolen bases.
Betts is an avid bowler; he bowled throughout his youth and competed in the PBA World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nevada, in 2015. He has bowled two perfect games on January 27, 2013 and February 2, 2016.
Betts is a nephew of Terry Shumpert, who played parts of 14 seasons with several MLB teams. In 2004, Shumpert spent his final season of professional baseball with the Triple A Nashville Sounds and worked extensively with Betts.
Betts' first Little League coach was his mother Diana, who is also an avid bowler and taught Mookie to bowl at an early age. Betts was named the Tennessee boys Bowler of the Year in 2010, having set Tennessee high school records that season with a 290-game and an 827 three-game series. He has rolled two sanctioned 300 games and has averaged over 200 in league competition. In the 2015 offseason, Betts entered the Professional Bowlers Association's GEICO World Series of Bowling VII, being held in Reno, Nevada.
Betts' parents chose his name in part to form the initials MLB, matching those of Major League Baseball. He has attributed his nickname Mookie to his parents watching former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock play basketball shortly after Betts was born. Betts has stated he has never met Blaylock.