On Sunday, September 19, 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park by a score of 8-5; A crushing loss for the Reds in their pursuit of a postseason wildcard spot, and an important victory for the Dodgers, who are in the chase for their ninth consecutive NL West championship.
The game had notable performances, including Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw keeping the Reds hitters off balance for five innings with curves and sliders, using his fastball as his change-of-pace pitch. Left fielder Gavin Lux continued to display his offensive potential, and catcher Will Smith cemented his status as the best all-around catcher in MLB with his 25th home run and 72nd RBI of the 2021 regular season, with 12 games remaining.
But this game had a moment that deserves special recognition. In the sixth inning, 26-year-old Reds rookie outfielder TJ Friedl hit a pinch-hit home run. It was his first hit as a Major League player, a truly special moment for the Sewickley, PA native. But what happened after the home run was memorable for everyone playing or watching the game.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts remembered that Friedl had made his Major League debut the previous day, so the home run was his first hit. Mookie did not hesitate; he motioned to the fan, who had just caught the ball on the fly, to throw the memento ball to him. The Reds’ fan immediately tossed the ball to Betts, no bartering for a quid pro quo trade. Mookie yelled to the fan, “I got you,” and then threw the treasure to Reds’ first base coach Delino DeShields for safekeeping.
Betts didn’t forget the fan. True to his word, when he returned to right field the next half-inning, he brought with him one of his bats autographed in Dodger Blue, personally handing it to the fan in the bleachers.
Friedl’s reaction: “Chills, honestly. For [Betts] to do that for me was incredible.”
Reds’ manager David Bell summed it up nicely:
“I don’t know Mookie, but man, it just says so much about him as a person, as a player. It confirms basically everything I’ve ever heard about him. To think that selflessly or to think outside yourself that much in the heat of the game and to be that thoughtful, it’s amazing. That was just so classy.”
During his postgame Zoom media session, Betts was asked about his now-famous interaction with Dillard and about fan interactions in general. To the surprise of many, Betts referenced one of the greatest sports legends – and human beings – of all time.
“You know, just those type of interactions are kind of everlasting,” Betts answered. “I think one of the last times I talked to Kobe [Bryant] one time, he just sort of reminded me that by the time the game’s over, if you see somebody, somebody knows who you are, somebody recognizes you, obviously that’s through our play, but it’s just another way for somebody to just impact someone’s life.
“You know what, I wasn’t really doing it for camera particularly, just, I was just doing it because, you know, he immediately threw the ball back, didn’t even ask for anything back. I just gave it to him.”
What all Dodgers fans already knew, Mookie Betts is the perennial MVP – Most Valuable Person. Pure class, on and off the field.
AND, he is going to be a Dodger through 2027.
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