Los Angeles Dodgers star right fielder Mookie Betts knows how important it is for the athletes to have souvenirs that remind them of important milestones in their careers. This is why he went to great lengths to make sure Cincinnati Reds rookie TJ Friedl kept the ball he hit his first MLB home run with.
Friedl hit a homer after a pitch from Tony Gonsolin in the sixth inning and returned to the dugout. The ball was already caught by the fans, and he knew that the chances of getting it back were zero to none. However, Betts, who witnessed the homer and recognized its importance for Friedl, decided to do something about it.
Betts got the attention of the fan that caught the ball and asked him to return it. In exchange, he promised to give him another ball. The fan immediately obliged and threw the ball to Betts, who passed it to the Reds’ dugout.
“I just asked him for the ball. I just told him kind of [through] sign language,” Betts told reporters after the game. “I just 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.”
The fan that gave the ball back ended up getting something even better. Betts quickly returned to make good on his word and gave him a signed bat.
After getting his first home run ball, Friedl was emotional and full of praise for Betts.
“Thank you is all I can really say because it means so much,” said Friedl. “Just to get that ball back, for it to be my first home run, just for him to know that and turn around to the fan.”
The game against the Dodgers was the second in the majors for TJ Friedl, with him being elevated to Cincinnati’s active roster the day before. The hit that resulted in a home run was also Friedl’s first in MLB in only his second at-bats appearance.