Myers savors dream season
Wil Myers had the dream growing up of playing in the major leagues. It’s a dream countless young ballplayers on fields across the country have.
Not only has he made it a reality, becoming one of only about a dozen area players to ever make it to the majors, but in his first year he has already become widely known for his stellar play and winning American League Rookie of the Year.
“It’s always been my dream to get there,” said Myers, a right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays during a press conference Monday morning at Wesleyan Christian Academy. “I’ve worked hard, and I’ve stayed driven since I graduated high school.”
After being traded from Kansas City in the offseason and being called up prior to Tampa Bay’s June 18 game at Boston, Myers, who starred for four years at Wesleyan, hit .293 and totaled 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 88 games. He received 23 of the 30 first-place votes for Rookie of the Year and easily won.
“It’s very exciting just to be a finalist for something like that. To win it, it’s an awesome experience, “ he said. “To be traded and then the next year be in the big leagues, it’s pretty cool. I spent four years in the minor leagues, and now to be in the big leagues — it went by pretty fast, but it’s been a fun ride.”
Although Myers has had success, including earning Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2012, those close to him say he hasn’t changed. He still prefers being on the ballfield instead of being in front of the cameras or speaking to crowds.
During a recent practice, he was even a little nervous about working with some of Wesleyan’s outfielders, Wesleyan coach Scott Davis said. But once the fungoes started flying, he was in his element — a ballplayer sharing his love and knowledge of the game.
“It’s humbling, simply because I still see him as a freshman,” said Davis, whose 2008 state championship team included Myers. “To see him on the baseball field in Tampa or in Boston, you start to come to the realization: Man, he’s a big leaguer.
“All the guys I idolized growing up and all the dreams I had as a player, and he’s reached that level. So, I’m very proud of him to see him on the field at Fenway and all the things written about him. It’s very, very humbling.”
There was a learning curve to his first season, Myers said. Of course, preparing to face some of the game’s top pitchers was a challenge. And so were things such as learning the team’s travel routine. But there were also plenty of memorable moments.
One was hitting his first home run. And it wasn’t just a home run, but it was a grand slam off Cy Young winner and six-time all-star CC Sabathia in Yankee Stadium — “It’s one of those surreal moments I’ll never forget,” he said.
Another was playing in the one-game playoff against the Texas Rangers that the Rays won 5-2. That win put them in the AL Wild Card game against Cleveland, which they also won and advanced to face Boston in the ALDS.
“That was probably the coolest thing I experienced all year,” he said. “There were a couple guys on my team who’d played 10, 11 years in the big leagues and not made it to the postseason. For me to be able to do it in my first year, that was pretty cool.”
Now, after winning the AL Rookie of the Year and helping the Rays reach the postseason, Myers plans to keep working hard, spending the next few months at home training in the gym before starting his baseball training in January.
“People ask if it’s added pressure,” Myers said of what to expect in his second season. “For me, it’s more of a positive pressure to go out and work hard and exceed expectations for next season.”