A player usually would spend his first season with a team getting to know his new city. The people, the restaurants, the sights and sounds. Mookie Betts hasn’t been afforded that luxury as Major League Baseball continues staging its 2020 season during a pandemic.
The process will be slower for him. He probably won’t come close to feeling at home until the country returns to normal, whenever that is, and he can explore freely. Maybe it’s next year, the second of his 13 under contract with the Dodgers. But that doesn’t mean Betts isn’t finding ways to get involved.
One way is helping his new community. On Sunday, he will partner with Pull Up Neighbor, a nonprofit created to aid disadvantaged communities, to give necessities to people for free in Compton. Hand sanitizers, reusable face masks and food boxes will be handed out. Health screenings will be conducted. The event, which will be staged with support from the Dodgers, also will provide voter registration services.
“Obviously, I helped out the community some in Nashville,” Betts said, referencing his hometown.
“Still trying to do more. But this is my home now. L.A. is my home now.”
It’s the first community outreach event he has sponsored in Los Angeles since moving out west for training camp. Betts said he chose Compton because he believes that is where people need help the most.
On Thursday, the Dodgers announced Dodger Stadium would serve as a voting site for November’s presidential election in partnership with LeBron James’ More Than a Vote coalition. Betts said Sunday’s voter registration efforts are about helping give people who might not usually vote smoother access.
“It’s an important year,” Betts said. “So everybody needs to get out there and vote. Everybody’s opinion matters. … Just making it easier for people to vote is definitely what I want to do and something that we’re doing.”
On the field, Betts hasn’t disappointed. He’s batting .303 with seven home runs and a 1.027 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 20 games this season. He slugged three of the home runs Thursday against the San Diego Padres, becoming the third player in major league history with six career games of at least three home runs. He’s just 27.
With the production, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, comes a presence that continues to resonate with his teammates.
“To see it on a firsthand basis every day and the conversations he has with the coaches, his teammates, it’s next-level stuff,” Roberts said.
“And for me, when you’re talking about a ballclub and players, that communication is gold. And we’re in a day and age with information and video, but I just love still having a conversation.”
Betts’ transition to his new team has gone smoothly. The transition to his new city will take more time. He said he still hasn’t bought a home — he’s renting — and he’s still getting used to the weather, but he’s significantly more comfortable than he was when he arrived in Los Angeles at the end of June.
He has embraced his new surroundings. And after signing that 12-year contract extension, he’ll have some time to get acquainted.
“I’m super excited about this opportunity,” Betts said. “Great team, obviously, great front office. Everything great about it. I’m here to stay and help the community and just make it home.”
Three observations on the Dodgers
— Will Smith remained out Friday as he continues to deal with neck stiffness and won’t be in Saturday’s lineup. Manager Dave Roberts said the catcher could end up on the injured list, but that hasn’t been decided. Matt Beaty is the team’s emergency third catcher.
— Alex Wood (shoulder) is expected to throw a bullpen session Saturday, according to Roberts. The left-hander would then throw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday if he emerges unscathed before possibly coming off the injured list.
— The Dodgers usually stay in a hotel when they play in Anaheim but aren’t this season to avoid the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Instead, the team is traveling back and forth from Los Angeles.