SARASOTA, Fla. — Wilson Betemit broke into the major leagues when he was 19 as a member of the Atlanta Braves, and was fortunate to be mentored by veteran players on the team.
Now at age 30, and on the seventh club of his career, Betemit has taken on a leadership role with the Baltimore Orioles.
He reflected upon the guidance that he received during his first stint in the major leagues at the Buck O’Neill Baseball Complex on a sunny Thursday.
“When I came into the big leagues when I was 19 years old, I had Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones in front of me,” Betemit said.
“Those guys told me how to be in the big leagues. Do your thing, come early to the stadium, work hard and try to do your job.”
Betemit hit .292 last season with the Detroit Tigers. In addition, his slugging percentage jumped from .409 in 2010, to .525 in 2011.
Far removed from his days as an inexperienced teenager, Betemit feels the onus is on him to reciprocate the advice he was given, to the younger players on the Orioles.
“Those young guys that come up to the big leagues, they don’t know how to be around the big leagues,” he said. “And that’s why when you’re around the young guys, (you show them) how to be in the big leagues.”
As a utility infielder, Betemit explained that one must be prepared to play any position at all times, and recounted how he had to adjust to do that at the request of his organization.
“When I came into the big leagues with the Braves, I was a shortstop and I remember they told me ‘play third base, there’s enough guys at shortstop.’ And I said ‘well, now I have to be a bit stronger to play at third base, but I had to play shortstop.”
His unwavering determination to play baseball, irrespective of position, shone through on Thursday.
“I never got a chance to play 500 at-bats (in) one year. That’s what I do — whatever they want me to do.
“I feel comfortable wherever they put me, because that’s what I do in the big leagues. I play third base, shortstop, second base, first base and outfield.
“I carry all my gloves,” Betemit said, with a glowing smile on his face.
Playing at the recently refurbished Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota on Thursday, Betemit went 0-for-3 while playing first base against the Atlanta Braves, as the Orioles won 2-1.