Rays prospect Chris Betts outslugs competition, earns All-Star Game MVP

The catching prospect won his second home run derby of the week, earning Midwest League All-Star Game MVP honors in the process.
In this file photo, Chris Betts (26) of the Bowling Green Hot Rods watches the action from the dugout during the game against the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field on June 9, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. The Hot Rods defeated the Dragons 1-0.  (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP)
In this file photo, Chris Betts (26) of the Bowling Green Hot Rods watches the action from the dugout during the game against the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field on June 9, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. The Hot Rods defeated the Dragons 1-0. (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP)
Published June 19

Tied at three after nine innings, the East squad sent Rays prospect Chris Betts to the batter’s box at the Midwest League All-Star Game.

Betts, representing the Bowling Green Hot Rods, stepped up to the dish for his second home run derby in two days at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Ind. Following a new All-Star Game rule, the Single-A league opted for a sudden-death derby instead of traditional extra innings to settle the tie game.

“We got told before the game that if it was tied we were doing a sudden death home run derby, and about the eighth inning started getting stretched and ready to roll," Betts said.

The East and West squads each selected a player for the derby. Betts, the winner of Monday night’s home run derby, was the logical choice for the East. He made waves this week when he hurled his bat to the outfield grass after winning the first home run derby.

The two competitors each had 90 seconds and one timeout to slug as many home runs as possible. The West sent Diamondbacks prospect Blaze Alexander to the dish for the tie-breaking derby. In his 90-second window, Alexander hit one home run.

Betts, 22, knew the number to beat when he stepped into the batter’s box. After 62 seconds, Betts had failed to lift a ball past the outfield walls, forcing him to call his lone timeout.

Returning to the batter’s box, Betts quickly lifted a pair of home runs, the second of which gave his East club the victory.

“I was pretty nervous going into that timeout,” Betts said. “I was finally able to slow it down and get some balls in the air and ran into a big one with time running out.”

Just as he did on Monday night, Betts flung his bat to the leftfield grass.

“The whole entire team cheering me on was really cool,” Betts said. “To be able to wrap it up for them was even better.”

The Rays prospect had every reason to celebrate Tuesday night. He could easily spot his dad and his girlfriend in the stands. He earned All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honors for his home run derby heroics. He was just two years removed from missing all but three games of the 2017 season with bone spurs in his right elbow.

“It’s super rewarding to be able to be an all star again, but just to be healthy and playing every day again is absolutely incredible,” Betts said.

Betts returned to the field in 2018, joining the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League. He posted a .790 OPS with the Renegades and earned New York-Penn League All-Star honors before his promotion to Single-A Bowling Green.

In 2019, Betts owns a .796 OPS and 21 extra-base hits with the Hot Rods. He hit his way to his second minor league All-Star Game, and, while he walked twice and did not register an official at-bat during the game, the catcher kept hitting in South Bend.

The Rays selected Betts in the second round of the 2015 MLB draft. He missed the 2015 season after having Tommy John Surgery that July. The Long Beach, Calif., product has hit .228 with 22 home runs over 172 games since 2016.

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