Betzsold Bolts to Fine Start as Pro : Baseball: Ex-Titan drafted in the 20th round by Cleveland is leading New York-Penn League in homers.


Jim Betzsold’s final college baseball season was bittersweet.

Betzsold was happy to be part of Cal State Fullerton’s highly successful season: a share of the Big West championship, an NCAA regional title and a semifinal berth in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

His disappointment was in not being a bigger part of it.

Betzsold started in 36 of the team’s 63 games, platooning with two promising freshmen, Jeremy Giambi and Mark Kotsay. Betzsold started chiefly against left-handed pitchers and pinch hit on other occasions. But Betzsold wanted to be in the lineup every game.

“I accepted it from a team standpoint because the coaches felt it was best,” Betzsold said, “but I didn’t accept it from a personal standpoint.”


Betzsold finished the season with a .266 average, 31 runs batted in and four home runs. “I was extremely happy when I got drafted,” Betzsold said. He was concerned he might not be, based on his senior season. The Cleveland Indians didn’t pick him until the 20th round, but as far as Betzsold was concerned, the big thing was having a chance to move ahead in baseball.

“I felt it was a new start for me, and I made up my mind to do everything I could with it,” Betzsold said. “I know I have the ability, and it’s a matter of me putting things together.”

Betzsold, who starred at Mater Dei High, appears to have done that playing for Watertown, N.Y., in the New York-Penn League.

In his first professional game, Betzsold was two for three with a home run. Then he had a game-winning home run the next night. He’s been going strong since.

At this point, he leads the league in home runs with 12, slugging percentage (.660) and on-base percentage (.488). Betzsold’s .333 batting average is fifth best in the league and his 40 runs batted in rank third. He’s played in 50 games.

“We really like what we’ve seen from him so far, especially his power,” Watertown Manager Jeff Datz said. “He’s definitely got some juice in his bat. He’s done a heck of a job for us, and has hit well in the clutch.”


Betzsold, 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, has been most pleased by his home run total.

“I’ve always felt I had the home run potential,” he said. “In college, though, it seemed like I was fouling off pitches I thought I could hit with power, but it just seems to be clicking right now. I’m not fouling that pitch off anymore. . . . I’ve been connecting with it.”

One of the knocks on Betzsold at Fullerton was his inconsistent defense, but Datz said Betzsold has improved this season. “He was a little shaky early in the season in right field,” Datz said, “but he’s doing much better lately.”

Betzsold said the Indians’ coaches have been working with him on getting better jumps on line drives.

“Jim was never a liability in the outfield for us, but we thought we had better defensive outfielders in the program,” said George Horton, the Titans’ associate head coach. “In his senior year, it was a matter of him getting caught up in the depth we had in the outfield, too, with Giambi and Kotsay also available.”

Kotsay wound up as the team’s leading hitter with a .372 average and Giambi hit .294.

“For whatever reason, Jim never showed the kind of consistency we were looking for to allow him to be in the lineup day after day,” Horton said. “He had some real good hitting spurts, though, and in retrospect, if we’d have left him in the lineup for the whole season his numbers for the year might have been better.”

Horton said Betzsold, who bats right-handed, had most of his problems on breaking pitches. That’s the reason he played primarily against left-handers. “He’s probably seeing more fastballs on that level, too, which should be in his favor,” Horton said.


Regardless, Horton said he and the other Titan coaches are delighted Betzsold is off to such a good start.

“He’s a guy we always rooted for because he works so hard,” Horton said. “I think he’ll probably continue to improve, too, because of that work ethic.”

Betzsold said the Fullerton program has helped him in professional baseball.

“Coming from a program like that, it’s not such a big jump,” Betzsold said. “At Fullerton, we really worked a lot on fundamentals, and I know that’s helping me now. The coaches there taught me that you really have to prepare yourself for every game. That’s real important.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of the pitchers here I saw in college, guys from LSU, Pepperdine and Long Beach State. I went against (former teammate) Mike Parisi the other night and had a two-run double against him.”

Betzsold thinks returning to the wooden bat also has been in his favor. “I’ve always liked the wood bat because it’s a little heavier than the aluminum,” he said. “I used to take batting practice with it at Fullerton and used it in the Cape Cod league last summer.”

The rookie league season will end Sept. 2, and Betzsold said he is undecided on going immediately to a fall instructional league. More likely, he said, he will return to Fullerton to work on his degree.


“I only have one more semester of work to finish, and I’d really like to take care of that,” he said. “Then I’ll devote all my time to my baseball career for the years after that. At this point, too, I feel really good about my future in the game.”