Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, August 01, 2013

Wil Myers returns to PG roots

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays had an off-day Thursday, yet it only made sense that Rays' starting right-fielder Wil Myers would make his way out to a ballpark. So what if that ballpark sits about 130 miles south of Tropicana Field, the Rays' home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It was no coincidence that Myers landed at Terry Park right about lunch time on Thursday.  A veteran of five Perfect Game events in 2007 and 2008 -- including four PG WWBA tournaments with North Carolina-based Dirtbags Baseball -- Myers arrived in time to watch his younger brother, Beau Myers, play for the Dirtbags at the 16u Perfect Game World Series.

"I decided to drive down and see my brother play and see some of my old coaches," Wil Myers said shortly after his arrival. "This is the first time I've seen him play this summer -- I got to see a couple of his high school games since I was in Durham -- but having an off-day today and being able to come see Beau play is pretty cool."

Myers was discrete in his appearance Thursday, wearing shorts, a logo-free blue T-shirt, a white cap turned backwards with sunglasses perched on top, and sporting a thin growth of beard around his chin and neck. In other words, he looked just like any other 22-year-old professional enjoying a rare day off with family and friends on the 1st day of August.

Myers isn't your typical 22-year-old professional, however. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the third round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, he enjoyed four phenomenal seasons (2009-2012) in the Royals' minor league system.

In December, Myers was part of a seven player trade that sent him and three other Royals prospects to the Rays for pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named. Myers was coming off a 2012 season split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha in which he had hit .316 with 26 doubles, 37 home runs and 109 RBI.

"I was a little shocked; I didn't really think it was actually going to happen just because I had a good year (in 2012) and I didn't think (the Royals) were going to trade me," Myers said Thursday. "But I was really excited to be able to join the (Rays) -- they're a great organization and they do a good job in the minor leagues. So I was really happy with it and I think it's been a good fit for me."

To say the least. After starting the season in Triple-A Durham, Myers made his major league debut with the Rays in a double-header at Fenway Park in Boston, and after one more game at Fenway the following day, traveled to Yankee Stadium in New York for a three game set. Talk about initiation by fire.

"I got acclimated pretty quickly but you kind of have to at that level," Myers said with a laugh.

The Rays were 36-35 (.507) and six games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox on the morning of June 18. On Thursday morning they stood 64-44 (.593) and were just a half-game behind the Red Sox in the standings. Myers is hitting .331 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 27 RBI in 36 games and the Rays are 28-9 in the 37 games since his call-up.

"It's been pretty cool just to be able to be called up to the big leagues and play on a good team; I'm having a good time," said Myers, who has also created much discussion because he chooses not to wear gloves while hitting. "The guys are great in the clubhouse and it's just  a lot of fun. They keep it loose in there and (manager) Joe Madden does a good job with everything there.

"Obviously, the winning helps," he said of the loose atmosphere. "We're just playing well right now -- our starting pitching has been great, we're getting timely hitting and our bullpen is coming in and shutting the door -- and everybody's doing their jobs and we keep winning."

Myers, who hails from Thomasville, N.C., didn't exactly burst upon the scene in just the last couple of years. He was recognized as a major talent as soon as he put on a Dirtbags uniform and stepped out on the field in early October, 2007, at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship -- played right here at Terry Park. Dirtbags founder and head coach Andy Partin has watched Myers' progression from a front row seat.

"It was really neat to watch that guy develop, and he was super talented when we got him," Partin said. "He could just do things on the field that not a lot of kids could do and he was great for us. It's been a lot of fun because he's had success at every level. He's had to earn it to get (to the big leagues) and I'm glad he's up there; I think he's going to be there a long time."

Playing those two years with the Dirtbags at PG tournaments remain among Myers' fondest memories of his high school baseball playing days.

"I had never played with a team where I had more fun playing baseball than this," Myers said while watching his brother Beau and the latest edition of Dirtbags' 16u team perform on the field. "All the guys on the team were great, the coaches they do a great job and they keep it loose, and Andy does a great job with what he does. It's the most fun I've ever had playing baseball at that age.

"(Partin) just kept me loose and made it a lot of fun to play here," he continued. "He just made it so fun to be a part of this organization and what he brings to the table. He always gets a good group of guys in here and keeps it loose and keeps it fun."

Myers' biggest amateur stage presented itself at the 2008 Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, and he walked away to rave reviews. He was impressive enough that by the time the 2009 MLB amateur draft rolled around he had risen to No. 15 in the class of 2009 national prospect rankings.

"Just playing on a big league field, which is cool, and playing against some of the best players in the game at that age, it just really shows where you are as a baseball player," Myers said of the PG National experience. "That was the only showcase I went to but I went to a couple of tournaments and I think Perfect Game does a good job with getting all the best players together to play against each other."

It is now Beau Myers' turn to gain those experiences. This week's elite 16u PG World Series is Beau's second PG event, having played with the Dirtbags at the PG WBBA 2015 Grads or 16u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., last month. Beau made his PG debut a memorable one, batting 11-for-19 (.526) with two doubles, four RBI, six runs scored and a 1.182 OPS.

"It was a good experience playing in my first Perfect Game tournament, and I really enjoyed it," Beau said Thursday. "I had a good time with the team and we had real good competition." He also seems to be enjoying his association with the Dirtbags as much as his older brother did.

"I really like it; we have a good group of guys here and we get along with each other," Beau said. "Everybody on this team really likes each other a lot and there's not (cliques) on this team, where you have this group over here and this group over there. It's just one group and we all get along with each other."

There is nothing but unwavering adoration in Beau Myers' voice when he speaks of Wil: "He's my role model and I really love him a lot. It's hard to put into words how much I love him; he's my role model and I try to be just like him. We have a really good relationship ... and as we've both gotten older and matured we've gotten along even better."

Six years separate the brothers but there are unfiltered memories: "I remember going to the games and watching his ballgames and there were always lots of scouts there," Beau said. "I didn't really understand it all until now, but I did think it was really cool and everything; I thought it was crazy."

The two Myers brothers stay in contact as much as possible but Wil tries to observe and stay involved from behind the ropes. He's confident Beau will get the same excellent instruction and positive feedback he received when he was Beau's age.

"I just tell him to keep working hard," Wil Myers said. "I've noticed a huge difference in his game in just the last three months; he's really stepped it up. I can tell he's having a lot of fun and he's doing a good job here with the Dirtbags. Hopefully he can go out and play in front of some scouts and see what happens after that."

"I feel like I've improved a lot this year and I'm real excited about my game," Beau said. "Hopefully I'll be able to take it to the next level."

For his part, Partin is starting to see some shared traits between the Myers' brothers.

"There are a lot of similarities in their swing," he said. "If you saw Wil hit at this age, (Beau) does a lot of things the same way. He's got that same kind of grinder attitude -- he's got the no batting gloves thing going -- and when he gets a pitch he wants to swing at, he lets it fly. There's a lot of hate in that swing just like Wil; he's got some thump and he's having some success down here so far."

During Wil Myers' Perfect Game career, he was listed as a 6-foot-3, 190-pound primary third baseman and utility player. At the 2008 PG National Showcase, he threw 89 mph across the infield, recorded a 1.80 Pop time from behind the plate and ran a 6.73-second 60-yard dash. He even got up on the mound delivered a 91 mph fastball.

"What people don't really understand is he could play anywhere on the field, all nine positions, and do them all really, really (well)," Partin said. "There aren't a lot of true super utility guys out there anymore ... but this kid could do anything. He could go play shortstop for Tampa Bay right now and be fine."

Myers smiles at the memories and also at what lies ahead. In just a short six weeks he has gone from one of baseball's most promising young prospects to one of MLB's most exciting hitters.

"Being in the big  leagues is pretty cool," Myers said with a smile. "I'm pretty happy with my progression so far."

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