If his career keeps trending in the right direction, Chris Betts will become the 16th Wilson Bruin to reach Major League Baseball. Currently, the catcher is just thankful to be healthy.
After being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015, Betts underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. He then broke a bone spur in the same elbow, and missed almost all of last year as well.
“Once I got to Single-A Bowling Green it was a huge weight off of my shoulders,” Betts said. “Just being healthy gave me peace of mind. I was able to be more focused on going out and doing my job everyday instead of worrying about how I’m going to get through the game because my arm hurt so bad.”
Betts, 21, quickly moved to the New York Penn League where he hit nine home runs and drove in 36 runs in 56 games behind the plate for the Hudson Valley Renegades. He was named team MVP by the Tampa Bay organization.
“Everything started to click back together,” Betts said. “It really felt like the old me. It was the first time I had any sort of confidence on the field since 2015.”
As a minor league catcher, Betts takes a beating on and off the field.
“We had about three weeks where we didn’t have air conditioning on the bus in the middle of July,” Betts said. “You’re sitting on that bus for five hours and it’s just exactly what you would think it would be. It could be 100 degrees in July and you’re playing in front of 17 people in the middle of nowhere. And then the next week you’re wearing a giveaway jersey and playing in front of thousands of people. There is no in-between. The minors are all over the place all of the time. It’s fun, but it’s as hard as everyone thinks it is.”
Betts is leaving to play with a Tampa Bay affiliate in Perth, Australia in November, but is soaking up as much Long Beach as he can this month.
“I think I’ve had Naples Rib Co. about three times in the last eight nights,” Betts said. “It didn’t take me long to get back to supporting our Long Beach business.”