Once a week, Hylton graduate Alec Bettinger and other baseball players from various levels get together at the Peninsula Pilots’ home field in Hampton for what is loosely termed a COVID-19 league.
There are no fielders at War Memorial Stadium. No innings. No formal structure at all.
The pitchers throw. The hitters bat and everyone has fun. It’s a different way to stay in shape while the baseball season on hold, but Bettinger loves every minute of it.
“There’s a lot of laughs,” Bettinger said.
Bettinger initially began his workouts in nearby Norfolk with only his former University of Virginia teammate Connor Jones after the coronavirus outbreak ended spring training in mid-March.
But soon their group expanded after Paul Hall, a Virginia Tech player who competes for the Pilots, used his connections to have everyone meet once a week at the Peninsula field for live hitting and throwing.
Through word of mouth, players in high school, college, the minors and even the majors showed up to stay sharp. At the most, Bettinger said they’ve had 15 players in attendance at one time. Peninsula competes in the collegiate Coastal Plain League and begins its season Friday.
With the minor league season cancelled following Tuesday’s announcement, Bettinger may still compete this summer in the Brewers’ organization.
He is a candidate for one of the 15 final spots that will train at the Brewers’ low-A affiliate in Appleton, WI. Appleton was chosen as Milwaukee’s alternate site for those in the 60-player-pool not on the major-league active roster. Milwaukee revealed its first 45 players Monday and begins its summer training camp Saturday as it pares down the roster to 30 in preparation for Opening Day later this month. The Brewers have not said yet when they will reveal the other 15 players.
Bettinger said he never expected to make the big-league roster, but thought he might receive an invite to Appleton that will develop prospects and serve as a pipeline for call-ups to the majors.
The right-hander entered the season as Milwaukee’s 20th ranked best prospect by Baseball America. He left Feb. 4 for Milwaukee’s spring training facility in Arizona for some extra work with the Brewers’ minor-league staff before the rest of the minor leaguers were scheduled to report in March.
In 2019, Bettinger led Double-A Biloxi in innings pitched (146.1), increased his strikeout rate to 9.68 per nine innings and lowered his walk rate to 2.16. He was 5-7 overall with a 3.44 ERA in 26 starts.
He was in line to start the season at Triple-A San Antonio.
“I know I’m in the mix,” Bettinger said of joining the Brewers’ player pool. “All I can do is stay ready.”