Wilson’s Chris Betts goes viral with home run derby bat flip

The game of baseball is at a celebration crossroads. The old guard demands respect and adherence to the unwritten rules, while the new guard is influencing the game with pure emotion. Wilson High alum Chris Betts scored another point for the new guard last week with the bat flip heard ‘round the world.

Betts, 22, is finally healthy and working his way through the Tampa Bay Rays organization as the team’s everyday catcher. Last week at the Midwest League All-Star Game Home Run Derby in Indiana, Betts won the competition for the East All-Stars and celebrated by launching his bat into right field.

The next day after the All-Star game ended in a tie, Betts hit the game-winning home run in the tie-breaking sudden death derby. Once again, he capped the victory with an epic bat throw.

“The (first bat toss) was not at all planned,” Betts said. “It was just the emotions clicking over and I totally blacked out. It was everything man, and it all hit me at once.”

The video clip of the bat flip immediately went viral on social media, and Betts has been doing media interviews almost every day since. His team, the single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods are even doing a “Chris ‘Bat Throw’ Betts T-Shirt Giveaway” on Friday night when the first 250 fans get a free shirt that commemorates the unique celebration.

“It’s a huge deal,” Betts said of winning the derby. “Forget the money prize, the crowd was really into it and it’s a great event so everything had my emotions high. What do you want me to do? Drop my bat, accept the money and walk off the field?!”

This is not the first time Betts has been a Twitter sensation this season. Last month in a game against the Lansing Lugnuts, Betts took a run off of the scoreboard with a heads-up play to end the inning. With one out and a Lugnuts runner at third, a deep fly ball turned into an apparent sacrifice fly RBI when the runner at third easily slid into home without a play at the plate.

However, Betts watched closely as the runner passed the plate and noticed he didn’t touch it. Before the next pitch, Betts asked for the ball, stepped on the plate, and the umpire signed for the third out. Betts told the press after the game that he’s been checking if the runners touch the plate since he was 15.

Betts is trying to be the 16th Wilson baseball player to reach the MLB, and has 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 64 games for Bowling Green this year.

He has no regrets about his celebration.

“In today’s day and age no one will say it to your face. There’s people on Twitter with 15 followers who are telling me that I’m embarrassing myself. But I just kind of look at them and say ‘Do you realize I just made like one months rent off of batting practice?! I’d imagine that if you were able to pay your mortgage off of 22 batting practice homers you’d be pretty stoked too.”

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.
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