Not long ago, Wil Myers would button up his red-and-white No. 8 jersey and step out onto the field for the Wesleyan Christian Academy baseball team. In it, he helped the Trojans accomplish great things, including winning a state championship.
In the years since, Myers has experienced success at a level only a few have achieved. And now that red-and-white No. 8 jersey is his, as he became the school’s first athlete to have his jersey retired in a ceremony Tuesday between Wesleyan’s basketball games.
“I was very excited about it,” says Myers, who was joined by his parents, Eric and Pam, as well as his brother, Beau. “I really thank Wesleyan for giving me this opportunity. They have a great school here, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. It’s definitely cool to be the first one.”
Playing at Wesleyan from 2006 to 2009, Myers grew into the type of player who could definitely play at a higher level. At first, it looked like he might play collegiately at South Carolina. But then, when he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, his career skyrocketed.
He has worked his way through the Royals’ Rookie, A, High-A and Double-A teams before reaching Triple-A last year — a year in which he was named Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today, Topps and Baseball America (becoming only the third player to win all three).
Now, after an offseason trade — in which he was the prominent figure — to the Tampa Bay Rays, Myers, who plays outfield, has been invited to Major League Spring Training and his prospects of playing in the major leagues have never been brighter.
“It’s definitely cool,” says Myers, 22, who also played in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. “It’s very humbling to see my name with some of the great players who’ve played this game. So, it’s definitely an exciting experience to see that.”
In that red-and-white Wesleyan jersey, though, is where Myers began to realize some of his potential. An all-conference and all-state selection all four years, he broke out big-time his junior year while helping lead the Trojans to the 2008 NCISAA 3A state championship.
From there, even despite a challenging 2011 season, Myers has continued to excel on the highest levels but has managed to stay grounded, says Wesleyan coach Scott Davis, who presented the Myerses with one framed jersey while a second will remain at the school.
“It means a great deal to have a kid not only of the athletic ability of Wil Myers but also of the character of Wil Myers to represent us and himself the way he does,” Davis says. “So many times you hear of guys who have the ability make bad decisions or mistakes.
“Not to say Wil’s above it, but he’s handled himself tremendously and he’s a great representative of himself, his family and our school. It’s incredibly rewarding. As a player myself and as a coach, to have a kid like him come through your program at an early age, watch him develop and see him become a world-class athlete is something special.”
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Tuesday, followed by the full squad on Feb. 16. And Myers will be there, looking to make the most of his opportunity for which he has worked from his earliest days on the baseball diamond.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he says. “I’ll be down there with a bunch of great players, and I’m pretty excited about being down there with all of them.I’m really looking forward to having a new opportunity with the Rays.”