Mookie Betts on joining BodyArmor and handling expectations in 2017

Aug 14, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) smiles after he was doused with Powerade by shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after the Boston Red Sox 16-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. Betts had three home runs in the win. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) smiles after he was doused with Powerade by shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after the Boston Red Sox 16-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. Betts had three home runs in the win. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Mookie Betts, the Boston Red Sox All-Star right fielder, has signed a partnership agreement with the sports drink brand BodyArmor.

For those unfamiliar, BodyArmor is a premium sports drink marketed towards high-performance athletes, both professional and amateur. In a press release issued this morning, the company announced that they have added Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts as a brand partner and sponsor. The official dollar/length terms of the partnership have not been made public, but Betts will receive equity in the company based on the agreement.

The company is backed by former NBA star Kobe Bryant and achieved national distribution in 2015 as an alternative option to traditional sports drinks that feature artificial ingredients. As part of the multi-year partnership, Betts will be involved in their digital marketing campaigns as well as local events to generate awareness around the New England area.

With the deal, he joins a list of high-profile athletes from various sports that include Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, Dustin Johnson, and James Harden among others. Ahead of the announcement, I had the chance to speak with him on why he chose BodyArmor, how he and the 24 other guys in the room are handling expectations this year, and more.

Coming off a breakout season in which he established himself as one of the best all-around players in baseball, Betts discovered the product over the winter and instantly became a fan.

“I had been looking at the company for a while and I saw what they were about, with Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Mike Trout and those guys. Those guys wouldn’t be with the company for no reason so, yeah, I explored it, got some drinks and felt like I wanted to pursue,” he said. “The drink is better than Gatorade, it has so much potassium, so many electrolytes, it’s perfect for the type of athlete I need to be.”

Last season, Betts broke out to earn All-Star honors in addition to the American League Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at his position. In 158 games, he batted .318 with a .897 OPS, 31 homers, 113 RBI, 42 doubles and 26 steals. He also led the majors in at-bats (672) and total bases (359). Along with talent and hard work, part of what enabled the Red Sox’ star outfielder to put up the numbers he did was his ability to play on a daily basis – an important factor in his decision to sign with BodyArmor.

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“I just know that obviously working out and getting the right electrolytes and what not in me is definitely huge. The body has to recover and sometimes you have to go out there and almost play at 80%, but you have to get that full 80%… I know that every time I step on the field, I need to perform at my highest level.”

The Red Sox will surely need him to be out there patrolling right field every day. In addition to posting historic numbers offensively, Betts led all players in Defensive Runs Saved (32), by a wide margin. Adam Eaton, then a member of the Chicago White Sox, finished second with 22. What makes his defensive performance all the more impressive is that right field was his third different position as a professional, having previously played center as recently as 2015 and coming up through the minors as a second baseman.

On his ability to adjust so quickly and at such a high level, Betts attributes his success to hard work and determination.

“Everybody has the ability to adapt, it’s just a matter of wanting to. I had the will to try to be the best at whatever position I’m in,” Betts said. “So, with the move to right field, I made sure I would get early work in every day; I’m working around the wall, working around the angles, and what not at Fenway Park to be the best that I can.”

He also couldn’t resist giving credit to the coaching staff and one teammate in particular that aided him along the way in his transition.

“I’ve had two coaches help me out along the way obviously, taking me out there, working and showing me little basic things. But, Jackie [Bradley Jr.] has been the biggest help and he’s taught me a lot. I’ve got to give him credit. Plus he makes it easy being the center fielder, I don’t have that much ground to cover. He covers everything, so it’s pretty easy for me.”

For the first time in 14 years, the Red Sox will have to compete without the presence of their long-time leader, both on and off the field, David Ortiz. Coming off a division-best 93 wins and the offseason addition of Chris Sale, expectations are as high as ever for the club to take the next step and push for a World Series title. Most that follow the team are expecting Dustin Pedroia, the team’s longest-tenured player, to emerge as the next in line to lead the clubhouse.

There’s no doubt that Pedroia will have a vocal and visible impact for the club this season and it will likely be his team, as much as a roster of 25-men can belong to any one guy. However, despite being just 24-years old, Betts is the team’s best player and will carry a lot of individual expectations without Ortiz in the lineup. The club will be counting on him to reproduce his MVP-calibre season from a year ago, a responsibility that he addresses with modesty.

“Yeah, you know, I think that the pressure just comes from within,” Betts said. “We don’t expect to go out and be somebody else; you just go out and be yourself. I think that’s how I frame it.”

Next: Can Chris Sale exceed 20 wins this season?

While he remains tempered when addressing the amount of weight placed on his shoulders, he doesn’t shy away from what he and his teammates are expecting out of each other. “Winning the World Series. That’s our goal.” Betts said, when asked where the Red Sox will be at the end of the season.