By Ryan Canner-O'Mealy, Special to SI.com, SchoolSports.com
Last summer at the third annual Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic, Betances took the mound as the first New York City kid ever to make the game. He was so impressive that it prompted Morgan to tell a national ESPN audience that facing Betances as a high school batter would be simply unfair.
And when he was selected to the Aflac game, Betances' favorite team, the Yankees, honored him prior to one of their games. After Betances ran into A-Rod in the clubhouse, Rodriguez told the Daily News he was glad he didn't have to face Grand Street's ace.
For Betances, that was the ultimate. For a kid who grew up in Manhattan rooting for the Yankees, that was like an aspiring guitarist meeting Jimi Hendrix.
"That was a privilege to have A-Rod honor me," Betances says.
And while A-Rod won't have to face Betances anytime soon, there's certainly a chance the two will meet up in a major league ballpark sometime down the road. Despite being offered scholarships from such powerhouse programs as LSU, Miami and Arizona State, Betances is almost guaranteed to be bound for professional ball following high school. He has the winning lottery ticket of a big league right arm, and some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 2 overall in the first round of the MLB Draft. Meanwhile, team message boards are loaded with grown men proclaiming Betances a savior for their favorite downtrodden professional teams.
"Whatever major league team lands him will hit the jackpot," Martinez says.
But none of this has gotten to the All-American. It's been an amazing run for Betances, the son of Dominican Republic immigrants Jaime and Maria. Betances used to primarily be a basketball player who lived in upper Manhattan, not far from where fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez first made his name as a prodigious slugger. After moving to the Lower East Side at age 10, Betances started playing baseball.
He entered Brooklyn's Grand Street Campus, which is just a few stops on the L train away from his lower Manhattan apartment, as a 6-foot-4 freshman who threw 85 mph. Through hard work, countless bullpen sessions and quite a growth spurt, he turned himself into one of the top pitching prospects in the country.
"Last year as a junior, he blossomed," Martinez says. "He just put everything together. He was throwing over 90 miles per hour with control. Every time he was out there, it was electric. Everyone was feeling good."
Most of all, Betances himself felt great. Throughout his junior year and into his senior year, the pitching mound has been his safe haven. Despite all the attention, Betances has been able to focus on his catcher and just pitch. He has been able to block out the scouts and expectations and just have a good time.
"I go out there, have fun and enjoy the life," Betances says. "I don't really worry about that other stuff."
No one knows exactly what the future will bring for Betances, although it's a safe bet to assume it will include a first-round selection in this year's draft and a rather large signing bonus. But Betances prefers not to think about that. Instead, he's letting his coaches and advisors worry about the business side of things.
No matter what the scouting reports, mock drafts or chat rooms say, Betances just wants to pitch.
After all, he has a rather substantial crowd to entertain.