Mookie Betts

How Mookie Betts' ability to adjust was born with a blocked shot

Rob Bradford
March 25, 2015 - 7:26 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As good as Mookie Betts has been this spring training -- and his .471 batting average would suggest he's been really good -- there is the understanding that this is just the beginning. Once immersed in the major leagues on a full-time basis, he is going to have to adjust, because the opposing pitchers certainly will be. Fortunately for Betts, he has a pretty good track record when it comes to adjusting. For that, he can thank his time on the hoops court during his high school days in Tennessee. "When I think about it, it wasn't really baseball that showed me the adjustments," Betts said. "It was basketball. Being small and playing with guys who were bigger, you just had to learn how to adjust. It's not something where I felt like I had to do this or that. It was just figuring out that I can't take it to the rack every time because my shot would get blocked, so I had to pull up. Those adjustments naturally happened and then I took that into baseball and let it naturally happen and it's just gone from there. "You can't go to the basket against guys 6-foot-8, 7-foot. You just learn over time you have to make an adjustment. In baseball you have to learn to make adjustments. But it really didn't hit be hard until I started getting swatted. Same adjustments, just different sport." He can even offer the specific instance where acceptance to change started taking root. "I can recall one time where this guy was nowhere near me and I go up for a lay-up and he pinned it. I was like, 'What?!' Then a couple of times I pulled up and I was at the three-point line and he was at the free throw line but I thought there was no way he was going to block my shot, but he jumped and blocked it," Betts said. "Those were the type of things where I realized something had to change. Eventually I learned how to get it off. Then when baseball you have a 2-0 count and you think no way they'll throw a breaking ball and they do it. Now my body naturally adjusts that maybe I can hit a 2-0 hanger. It's just kind of natural." Betts isn't big into dissecting video of opposing pitchers, and he doesn't meditate on how each and every at-bat might unfold. The 22-year-old says he has simply acquired the skill of adjusting in the moment, a trait that has served him well to date. "The adjustments I make are things I can't really explain," he said. "It's kind of something that happens. I just kind of pick up on things. I don't really say, 'OK, I'm going to adjust to what he's doing. I know he does this, so I'm going to do this.' Somehow my body just naturally adjusts. Sometimes I can't explain how I do some adjustments. "I'm still adjusting to major league pitching, but the adjustments I have made are things I can't really explain. I didn't necessarily learn to hit cutters and breaking balls and all that stuff. They are just adjustments I made and I have no idea how I did it, and I really don't want to know. When you start analyzing things it gets too complicated. I like that I can just naturally adjust. If I know a pitcher has this or that, I'm not going to change my plan on purpose. As the at-bat goes, I'm sure my body and my mind will adjust."