ATLANTA -- Wilson Betemit was a sensational talent in the Dominican Republic, so much so that the Braves got in some trouble for signing him. He was just 14 years old when he inked the deal on July 28, 1996.
The Braves were sanctioned by Major League Baseball, which levied a fine and a temporary restriction on scouting players in the Dominican in 2000.
Betemit was "next" for the Braves. He was a switch-hitting shortstop with tools, and he was going to be a fixture for the Atlanta organization.
He could do it all, including a five-foot back flip as he ran out to shortstop in Class A ball. The Braves, fearful of an injury, ordered Betemit to stop doing the flips.
"He was a marvelous player," said Brian Snitker, the Braves third-base coach and Betemit's coach at Class A Myrtle Beach.
Things did not work out. Betemit hit .305 in 115 games for Atlanta in 2005, but he was traded to the Dodgers in 2006 and shipped to the Yankees and White Sox before becoming a free agent last October. He signed with the Royals in the offseason.
"There were a lot of expectations for him," sad Dayton Moore, the Royals general manager, who was with the Braves when Betemit was signed.
Ned Yost, the Royals manager and former coach with the Braves, still thinks Betemit is plenty valuable.
"He is a great National League-type player because of everything he can do, and the way they use guys over here," Yost said.