Betts belts first career home run vs. Cubs

Betts belts first career home run vs. Cubs
July 2, 2014, 10:00 pm
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BOSTON -- Mookie Betts was just 1-for-13 in a Red Sox uniform when he stepped to the plate in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's game against the Cubs.

When his second hit finally came, it was loud.

Betts pounced on a 2-1 changeup left up in the zone by Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva and sent it flying over the Wall in left where it landed in the last row of Monster seats for his first MLB homer. The two-run shot sent Fenway into a frenzy and cut the Cubs lead to 8-5 in a game that Chicago eventually won 16-9 for the series sweep.

"It all happened so fast, I got around the bases so fast, it didn't really hit me until I got in the dugout," Betts said. "Got to kind of sit and think, 'I got my first one.' " 

As Betts rounded first and headed toward second, he unleashed a fist-pump signaling perhaps as much excitement as relief.

AJ Pierzynski, who walked to lead off the inning, waited for the rookie at home for a congratulatory high five as "Hello, I love you" by the Doors blared over the Fenway public address speakers.

"I don't think I'm a home run hitter, so anytime I hit it, I take off sprinting," Betts said after the game. "When I touched home plate, I think I kind of startled AJ because as soon as he turned around I was right there. He started laughing about that."

Fenway Park security made sure to track down the fan who caught Betts' first career MLB homer so it could be returned to the 21-year-old. Oddity of all oddities, it turned out that the fan -- Chris Large of Cookeville, Tennessee, according to ESPNBoston.com  -- had actually played summer baseball against Betts when the two were in high school. 

"He said as soon as he got it, he wanted to find a way to get it to me," Betts said, "and I really appreciated that."
 
The way Betts told the story, Large remembered pitching against Betts' team and Betts recorded two hits in the game. Betts went on to explain that Large is from a part of Tennessee that is about a 10-minute drive from his hometown of Brentwood. 
 
"It was really weird," Betts said. "I think it was just coincidence."
 
When Betts recorded his first big-league hit at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, he gave the ball to his mother Diana. He said that his first home run ball -- for which he gave Large a couple of signed baseballs and some other memorabilia -- will end up with his parents as well.
 
"She's not here now so I may get to look at it for a little bit longer," he said smiling."But when she gets here that's gone too." 
 
Betts finished the game with a pair of hits; he singled and scored a run in the ninth inning when Dustin Pedroia smacked an RBI double.
 
Red Sox manager John Farrell said that on a night that was forgettable for the team, one of the positives to take away was that perhaps Betts had gained another measure of confidence.
 
 
"There's a lot of athleticism there," Farrell said. "He gets a pitch up in the strike zone [for the home run]. There's plenty of bat speed. It was good to see it click for him tonight. Couple of base hits, hopefully this gives him a chance to take a little bit of a deep breath and recognize that he manages his at-bats very well." 

Now that Betts has made the shift to big-league pitching he knows his job has gotten tougher. The arms he's facing aren't the same ones off of which he .345/.437/.520 for 77 games with Portland and Pawtucket. They can control three or four pitches, and they throw more strikes.

But after four games with the Red Sox, Betts explained that he's started to settle in and feel as though he's not as wide-eyed.

"I mean it's the same game essentially, but yeah it feels a little different knowing you got a Red Sox jersey on here in Fenway," he said. "But you gotta kind of get past that and understand that it is the same game."