Cincinnati Reds rookie TJ Friedl homered in his second Major League at-bat, his first career hit, but it was a gesture from Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts that left him stunned Sunday.
After Friedl hit a pinch-hit homer in the sixth inning off Tony Gonsolin, Betts turned to the fan who caught the ball and asked for it back. The fan immediately threw it to Betts, who tossed it toward the Reds dugout, so Friedl could keep the memento.
When Betts returned to right field the following inning at Great American Ball Park, he handed the fan a signed bat.
“It’s incredible,” Friedl said. “For him to do something like that, it’s definitely just world class out of him. I want to go over there (to the Dodgers clubhouse) and just say thank you in person. Thank you is all I can really say because it means so much.
“I want to find a way to say thank you to him.”
Midway through the seventh inning, one of the Reds’ clubhouse attendants told Friedl he should be thankful for Betts because he was trading a bat for the ball.
“That’s when I turned around and saw Mookie running out with a bat into the outfield,” Friedl said. “Chills, honestly. For him to do that for me was incredible.”
Said Betts: “I just asked him for the ball. It was kind of sign language. I said I’ll throw you another ball, but that’s his first home run, can you throw it back? He didn’t hesitate. He threw it right back. I think at that point, I was going to throw him a ball, but I thought about getting him a bat instead, maybe has something to be remembered a little more.”
Friedl, a 26-year-old outfielder, was called up to the Major Leagues on Saturday. He pinch-hit in the eighth inning Saturday and Betts remembered the video board announcing it was his big-league debut.
When Betts watched Friedl’s homer sail over his head, a 385-foot blast from a first-pitch fastball, he immediately recognized it was Friedl’s first big-league hit. Friedl had the ball in a glass case in his locker, which he planned to bring home after the season.
“Those type of interactions are kind of everlasting,” Betts said. “I think one of the last times I talked to Kobe (Bryant) he reminded me that by the time the game is over, somebody knows who you are and somebody recognizes you. Obviously, that’s through our play, but that’s another way to impact someone’s life. I wasn’t really doing it for cameras or anything. I was just doing it because he immediately threw the ball back. He didn’t even ask or anything.”
The home run is something Friedl will never forget. He said he felt much more comfortable in his second Major League game than his debut and “I just got the pitch I wanted.” He tried to soak everything in as he rounded the bases and teammate Tyler Stephenson, a close friend and former roommate, gave him a bear hug in the dugout.
Then there is the story after the home run, which Friedl won’t forget, either. One baseball’s biggest stars looking out for a rookie he had never met.
Friedl and Betts spoke over the phone following the game, which the Dodgers won, 8-5.
“I don’t know Mookie, but man, it just says so much about him as a person, as a player,” Reds manager David Bell said. “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.
“Even though we lost the game and all the disappointment and frustration, both of those moments kind of remind you the other thing that this is all about. That was just so classy.”