Mookie Betts is generously listed a 5’ 9”, 180 pounds, but the man can eat. He has been known to go out to dinner, then get home and order delivery. So after Game 2 of the World Series, in which Betts went 3–4 and his Red Sox took a 2–0 series lead over the Dodgers, he was thrilled to see the frankly preposterous amount of Dominican food awaiting him and five others in his Back Bay apartment. He had placed the order with David Ortiz, who had apparently thought Betts was feeding the 40-man roster.
That’s too much, said his mother, Diana Benedict.
That’s too much, agreed his father, Willie Betts.
Mookie and Cam Lewis, his best friend since seventh grade at Oliver (Nashville) Middle School, insisted they could eat it all: a countertop full of chicken, steak, rice, beans, vegetables, even a flan. They stuffed themselves, but finally they admitted defeat. Normally they would feast on leftovers the next day, but they had early flights to Los Angeles for Game 3.
“We should go and give it away,” suggested Willie.
Lewis remembered the line of people who usually sleep wrapped in blankets, shivering on cardboard boxes, abutting the Boston Public Library on nearby Boylston Street. It was nearing 2 a.m. and 37 degrees—but that was true for the homeless people, as well. So the two wrapped themselves in three layers of down and wool and headed out into the night. They grabbed a shopping cart from a nearby parking lot and loaded it with tin foil trays, plastic silverware, napkins and wet naps, and some of the cases of bottled water that Body Armor, which Betts endorses, had sent. They gently woke a few people to offer them dinner, and within a few minutes close to two dozen men and women were eating.
“Thank you so much,” someone said. “We were hungry all day.”
Betts has declined to comment on the night, but that is the point that Lewis makes to Sports Illustrated when he retells it: These people were hungry. Betts and his friends and family were not.
“We didn’t think it would be such a big thing,” Lewis says of the media attention the story got once a passerby called into WEEI radio. “It was just the right thing to do.”
They purposely did not take their phones or tell anyone what they had planned. In fact, even that term is too strong, he insists. Going forward, they would like to distribute blankets and warm clothing to area homeless, and they would publicize that to help raise awareness, but in this case it was a simple act of spontaneous kindness.
And that’s what makes this story so lovely. None of the people they served recognized Betts. No one cared that he will likely be the MVP of the American League, that his team won a franchise-record 108 games this season and is two wins away from a title. Betts did not act in his capacity as Mookie Betts, whose jersey was the fifth most popular in the majors this year, who inspires “MVP” chants at home and on the road. He acted in his capacity as a human, who had the choice between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing, and made the right one. Betts is baffled by the attention he has received, says Lewis. They all are.
We so often ask our athletes to belong to us—put your fork down to take a selfie with me; put your child down to sign an autograph for me; tweet exactly what I think you should believe; endure my hostility when you strike out or miss a shot; take less money to re-sign with my team. But they do not belong to us, the fans. They belong to us, the humans, as we belong to each other as well. These days, it can be easy to forget that. On Wednesday, Betts did not.
The whole excursion took about 30 minutes, whereupon they discarded those layers of clothing and went to sleep. They had to get up early to fly to Game 3.