NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —With a World Series ring and nearly $400 million contract, Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers is cementing himself as one of the best athletes in Nashville sports history.
But it’s what Betts did for a sport he never actually played that left a lasting impact on the Overton High School community where he excelled as a bowler, basketball and baseball player.
Betts says he had offers to play football at Montgomery Bell Academy and Brentwood Academy, but his parents wanted him to attend Overton High School.
Terry Anderson was the football coach there at the time. “A couple times, he’d come to me in the spring of that year and say, ‘Coach, I think I’m going to try to play football.’”
Ultimately, Betts mother always disagreed, wanting her son to avoid the injuries that might come form such a high contact sport. Betts, undeterred, went to Anderson with a different idea for how he might get involved.
“He said, ‘I want to be a part of it coach. Can I be your manager, water boy, anything to be a part of it?” Anderson recalls. “A lot of kids, they thought it was beneath them to be a manager; they didn’t want any part of it. But here Mookie is — best athlete in the school — and he just wanted to be a part of it.”
The best athlete in the school and maybe the city would carry the water bottles onto the field during timeouts and stun coaches by flinging 50 yard passes on the field before the game with fellow managers.
“Mookie Betts has a chance to be the best athlete to ever come out of Nashville, and I don’t think that’s hyperbole.” That’s the opinion of 104.5 the Zone radio host, Brent Dougherty, a longtime observer of some of Nashville’s greatest athletes. Dougherty had never heard the story of Betts’ work as a manager.
“That guy has an ability to impact a baseball game unlike any sole person I’ve seen,” Dougherty said. “He’s just got that ability, I think, to probably be a professional in several different things.”
Last week, Mayor John Cooper created “Mookie Betts Day” during a ceremony at Overton’s baseball field. Betts thanked his parents for steering him on a path to great success.
“Both my parents are the main reasons why I ended up coming to Overton,” Betts said. “It’s crazy how it all came together, but it did.”
But even years later, Anderson is left to wonder what kind of football player Betts could have been. “I could always see him as a great receiver, free safety, defensive back because of the way he moved, covered distance, breaks on the ball,” Anderson said.
But that’s a hypothetical that will always go unanswered.