Expectations are sky high for the Dodgers this year, which comes with the territory. But they are also heightened because of their acquisition of Mookie Betts, who has already made a strong impression in camp. The All-Star outfielder graces the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.
Betts and Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani are pared, as are others in a series of regional covers, including Gleyber Torres and Pete Alonso in New York, and Tim Anderson and Javier Baez in Chicago.
Betts’ on-field resume is stellar on its own, but much has been made of the impression he made on teammates with an impassioned speech in the clubhouse on the first full day of spring training. Stephanie Apstein profiled Betts for Sports Illustrated:
A few days into camp, the other Dodgers realized they had barely spoken to their new teammate. He was always one of the first to arrive at the facility and one of the last to leave, but he spent almost no time at his locker. His routine seemed scheduled to the second. Then they didn’t see too much of him during workouts, either—he was too busy winning every sprint to chat. He reminded them of another Dodger, they thought. A Dodger whose work ethic is legendary. A Dodger who stretches before a 7:10 p.m. game at 6:36. “Not 6:35:58,” trainer Brandon McDaniel likes to say. “Not 6:36:02.” He reminded them of Clayton Kershaw.
Informed of that comparison, Kershaw laughs. “I don’t know how to compliment him without it sounding like I’m complimenting myself,” he says. “But I’ve really enjoyed my time with him. He just cares. It’s not just superstar player, superstar talent. He really cares about wanting people to do their best. Everybody says they want to win. He is willing to do everything it takes to win, and that includes helping other people, and it’s pretty cool.”
There is a long hallway to get to the home clubhouse on the third base side of Dodger Stadium, and one of the walls is lined with overlarge, framed copies of Sports Illustrated covers featuring Dodgers through the years. They’ll have to make room for another one, now.