The Wil Myers Story by Greg Schaum
Some people were put on this planet born with a gift. Ted Williams said â€œGood hitters arenâ€™t born theyâ€™re made.â€ That is great and I do believe it takes work on a craft to excel at it. But, it can also be said that Ted Williams was blessed with beyond perfect eye sight and large hands and maybe he wasnâ€™t born to hit, but man did he have a pretty good head start. William Bradford Myers is no different, when you know his story it is pretty obvious William Bradford Myers was born with a couple of laps lead in the hitting department.
Many people enter this world and their parents recognize their child is unique. While William is a family name Pam Myers knew her son was not a Bill or a William. Her little boy was different and being different means you get one L and not two. So, William Bradford became Wil.
Pam Myers was a very good athlete in high school lettering in volleyball, basketball, and softball. Wilâ€™s father Eric was a solid athlete growing up playing baseball and participating in recreational football while in the Marines. He stayed active in sports while Wil was growing up playing basketball, volleyball, and softball in local leagues. It is easy to see why Wil is as gifted as he is but you still have to want to play sports and at a very early age Pam says Wil took to the game of baseball.
- â€œHe started baseball as soon as he could walk, he always had a ball in his hand and he was playing t-ball at five years old. He played in leagues until he was nine.â€
Wil didnâ€™t like to sit still and being inside was boring. â€œI didnâ€™t watch much TV, the neighborhood kids werenâ€™t big athletes so we would play in the woodsâ€¦I donâ€™t remember playing sports with them but I was never inside. I didnâ€™t like to sit, I had too much energy.â€ He didnâ€™t even watch much baseball because he says he was just too hyper to stay inside. If he did catch an inning or so of baseball if it was on TBS watching the Braves and Chipper Jones.
In fact, Wil only went to one pro game in his life before the draft. â€œI remember going to a Braves game and we sat behind the 3B dugout. One of the Braves flipped me a ball and I always recall my only big league game I got a ball.â€
â€œThe neighborhood kids didnâ€™t play sports so his dad was his biggest influence as he always found time to work with Wil on hitting and throwing. â€œ His mom says he was always throwing the ball against the wall or playing catch with his dad. Wil remembers loving the game at an early age. â€œI remember in kid pitch I was the only kid who could throw the ball across the infield. I just felt at that age I was better than these guys. I donâ€™t want to sound arrogant but I just knew I was better.â€
Wil played soccer, a little basketball and YMCA football until middle school. He was small for his age and he admits he did not like getting hit. â€œIn the 8th grade I played QB and I had a good arm. If I started earlier I would have been betterâ€¦but baseball was always my passion.â€
His high school baseball coach Scott Davis believes he would have been a great QB. â€œHis public school was grooming him to be a freshman QB. He had the arm, speed, and eventually size that he would have been a good one, a really good one.â€
Wil began to play with some competitive teams at the age of 9 when he was picked up for a 10-year-old travel team. He was just a pinch runner to start the season and while small for his age he began to show everyone he was capable of hanging with everyone on the field and by the end of the season he was holding his own against kids 2 years older.
In his early years he played baseball with future professional baseball players like Garrison Lassiter (Yankees) and at 11 he played with future North Carolina Star and Twins #1 pick Levi Michael. He and Levi remain very good friends.
As junior high was finishing up and Wil was being groomed to be the next QB and baseball star at High Point Central, the Myers family had a friend who suggested the family should consider sending Wil to private school at Wesleyan Academy. After the 8th grade Wil worked out for the baseball coach Scott Davis and Davis told the family if you get him to me as a freshman I can get him a D-1 scholarship. Pam liked the coach and she knew the small environment would fit her son well.
Coach Davis has built an excellent baseball program in his 11 years. He admits that student-athletes are willing to drive an hour to the school and with no transfer rules he is able to build a solid program. He has sent several players to D-1 programs and the pros.
He remembers getting a call from Pam Myers in the summer of 2005 that Wil had interest in going to school. He told her he could not do anything until the proper paperwork was filled out. Wil came up to work out for his future coachâ€¦.Davis remembers â€œhe wasnâ€™t big, he was small and wiry and I threw him BPâ€¦it was obvious he could hit and had tremendous potential. I knew we were getting a good athlete and I knew he was a QB prospect but we didnâ€™t have football so I wanted to be sure he was willing to give that up.â€
Coach Davis played him in CF as a freshman and after 3-4 games he knew he was not ready defensively. He knew he was going thru a growth spurt and was gangly. His feet were growing and he got bad jumps and tripped over his feet. â€œI moved him to 3B and he was All-State batting over .500 even though he never played 3B before… Wil had very supportive parents and I never had a problem with them, my reputation is that I play the best, regardless of age. I donâ€™t care who your mommy and daddy is. If you win a job it is yours and Wil was that good as a freshmanâ€¦.I knew he was a special player.â€
Wil came back as a sophomore and Coach Davis says he had gotten lazy. He was so good but just going through the motions. â€œHe was still super but I told him if you want to play at the next level, a guy like Ray Tanner (South Carolina Head Coach) wasnâ€™t gonna put up with that. I got on his case and we had a sit down and it all just seemed to work after that.â€
Wil admits he was pretty immature his first two years and regrets it â€œI was a jerk, kind of cocky kidâ€¦it was just a phase I know but I regret itâ€¦.My last two years I was a lot nicer and had a lot of friends. I liked the school so much, I graduated with 80 kids.â€
I brought up this comment to Coach Davis and he jumped quickly saying â€œWil said that? He doesnâ€™t have a mean bone in his body.â€
After his sophomore season Coach Davis knew it was time to groom his young playerâ€¦
â€œI coached him different, I began coaching him not for this level but also preparing him for the next. I told him what to expect, he was just so dang talented. We had some tough times, but I had his best interest and he knew that.â€
His junior year he pitched, batted clean up, and played 1B and C. He had already committed to South Carolina. Coach Davis liked his arm and knew he could pitch and Wil was never going to back down from a challenge. â€œHe threw 88 off the mound and touched 90 and he had a change-up that was just devastating. His hands were so big the ball looked like a ping-pong ball in them.â€
Davis added,â€œhe taught himself to pitchâ€¦at first he would try to blow it by guys so on occasion he would get roughed up. But he learned and went 10-0 that season.â€
Wil was very solid as a junior on the mound, but for the first time in his life he struggled with the bat. â€œI hit .330 with three home runs and that was not very good.â€ Coach Davis said he began to get himself out.
Wesleyan rolled into the state playoffs and was set to play powerhouse and 3 time state champion Forsythe Country Day. The Forsyth star was Luke Bard, the younger brother of Daniel who had won a pair of titles during his prep career. Wesleyanâ€™s ace pitcher was Michael Dimock (College at Wake Forest 2012 draft pick by the Astros) but before the game Coach Davis told his assistant he was starting Wil. â€œI had a D-1 pitcher in Dimock that is who they expected and I told Wil people thought I was crazy for starting him. Wil asked me who said that and I repeated I believed in himâ€¦he was so focused he never cracked a smile.â€
Wesleyan had a 6-4 lead in the 6th and the 2, 3, 4 hitters were due up. â€œI pulled Wil and put in Dimockâ€¦Wil was mad as fire I took him out but I told him we needed to change looksâ€¦Right away I could tell Dimock didnâ€™t have it. He gave up a 400 plus shot, walked a guy got an out but I knew he didnâ€™t have it. I walked to the mound and Wil was walking in from SS and he walked towards the mound to come back in. I just handed him the ball and the other team thought it was a joke. He threw 2 pitches and got a double play.â€ Wesleyan won their first state championship!
The Myers family knew that Wil was a special player when he signed with South Carolina as a sophomore but they had no idea just how special he was until after his junior season. Pam says South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner told them something his junior year. Pam says Coach Tanner said â€œI appreciate you signing but he wonâ€™t ever step foot on campus. If he takes less than 2 million I will be disappointed.â€
Coach Davis says Myers really developed as a ball player as a senior. He said that Myers got himself out a lot as a junior and he knew that he was too good to make it easier on the pitcher. He just took the attitude that if they walk you, they walk you. â€œI think he struck out maybe 2 times as a senior and it seemed every hit was off the eye.â€
â€œWil left my program and it is hard for me to not compare everyone to Wil. That is not fair but not only was he super talented, his mental approach was so good. He doesnâ€™t take himself seriously. He handled failure better than anyone I have ever seen. His happy go lucky attitude really transcended this team. He is as good of an athlete to ever come out of this area. He is big, fast, a freak. You donâ€™t have that kind of athlete often. I havenâ€™t seen anyone close in 30 years. He is a different bird, nowhere else can run, throw with a rocket arm, hit, and hit for power like him.â€
â€œI donâ€™t let any of my guys do any heckling but other teams sure would and it seemed to only add more fuel to the competitive tank Wil has. He was always under controlâ€¦I remember we were playing Charlotte Christian in 09 and their coach had decided to see how far the super star could hit the ball. He took the second pitch out on a laser. The bigger the moment the bigger he produced. If the chips were down he always came through.â€
After high school it was clear that Wil Myers was going to be a professional baseball player rather than a South Carolina Gamecock. A program that won 2 National Titles in the time Myers would have played. â€œThat team is so good I signed there, Chris Owings and Bryce Harper signed there, and can you imagine that team with us and Jackie Bradley Jr, Christian Walker and the rest of the guys?â€
Coach Davis: â€œHe was such a hard worker and he did whatever you asked of him. He is a quality kid who never drank, smoked; he was just very focused on his goals. I never had any issues with him off the field. He comes back and golfs with me, spends time with the kids still in my program. He loved high school, loves this townâ€¦he is just a sweat pants, t-shirt, hat backwards kind of guy. To me, he will always just be the Redneck from Thomasville.â€
When Wil Myers was drafted in the 3rd round by the Royals the organization had to be ecstatic. After all, several in the front office wanted to take him with their first round pick. But, the baseball Gods shined on Kansas City for once and now they just needed to sign him.
This is how KC landed Wil as told by the Royals Director of Scouting Lonnie Goldberg:
â€œOur area scout Steve Connelly (now a Pro Scout for Toronto) did a helluva job here. He developed a great relationship with Wil and his family. I remember Wil was at the East Coast Showcase in August of his draft year where we saw him catch and hit a home run. We started following him and watched him play for the Dirtbags in Jupiter (Perfect Game Showcase Tournament) Junior Vizcaino (now the National Cross Checker for KC) and I saw him early in the season and he caught and also hit 3 home runs. The other team actually pitched to him which was rare. One of the hardest things about watching top players is the other teams wonâ€™t pitch to themâ€¦I know JJ Picollo went to watch him closer to the draft and Wil did not see any pitches until his last at bat. He hit a home run but I remember JJ texting me and saying this was crazy he isnâ€™t getting any pitches. It is one thing to talk to your guys that believe in a player but it is important to see that for yourself too.â€
â€œWe definitely considered Wil to be worthy of our first pick and we were especially sold on him when he came to our workout day at the stadium. He won over our group with his bat, charisma and free and easy approach. We had really been sold on him by Connelly, who spent as much time with Wil as he could. In his area there is a lot of talent, so to spend as much time as he did getting to know Wil is a real credit to what he thought of him. Connelly put his stones on him early and stayed on him. We had a good idea of the money it would take and felt we had the complete package on him.â€
â€œWe thought Wil could handle a premium position like catcher and I remember we had a discussion about this in the draft room. I said alright letâ€™s take the catching thing out of this and just view him as a bat. We all knew he had the tools but, do we want him there. We decided to view him as a bat only and that is when we knew, collectively, that he was one of the best, if not the best bat in the draft. We know we didnâ€™t over value him.â€
The Royals were prepared to take him in the first round but things fell a different way and it began to look like Wil would not be a Royal.
â€œI thought he would be long gone by the 3rd round. But, once he started sliding I was paying attention to a few teams. Remember, we didnâ€™t have a second round pick that draft. I knew the Red Sox and Indians were in play. Wil didnâ€™t fit the profile of what Cleveland would do but we knew they really liked him. I knew the area scout of the Braves also really liked him. We were paying a lot more attention as he continued to slide. We knew who would and wouldnâ€™t take on his signing bonus demands. (2 million like Coach Tanner had said) we had the dollars without that second round pick. He fell to us and honestly we had done so much talk on him in the draft room we knew we were justified in taking him and reaching out for that bonus with the 91st pick. We have to respect our owners and GM to ask for that amount but we were convinced he was worth it. One thing about Dayton and our owners is they are very supportive of the draft. If we believe in someone we can get a deal done. I know we donâ€™t over pay for anyone. We pay them generally close to where we think they are.â€
Wil signed with the Royals and immediately began to put his stamp on the organization
Catcher Ben Theriot remembers seeing Myers at a pre-draft workout at the K and remembers â€œI saw him hit balls for miles. He had so much raw ability. As I watched the draft unfold I saw his name called by KC and my name was called six rounds later.â€
Keaton Hayenga and Jake Kuebler were playing for the Burlington Royals in 2009 and while Myers was not signed he still worked out with the team since it was near his home.
Hayenga remembers â€œright after he was drafted he came out and worked out with us for a week. He caught some pen and hit a lot.â€
Kuebler remembers Myers as being very young and maybe not the most mature at the time but he says â€œhe hit the ball harder than anyone in batting practice and that includes Hoz and Moose. But, if he didnâ€™t feel like hitting or catching he just wouldnâ€™t do it. I remember our manager asked if he even wanted to be here. As I got to know Wil I realize he was just 18 and while he has matured so much he always has that swagger, which you need to succeed in this game.â€
Hayenga says the first time he was around Myers he thought how reserved he was adding â€œI knew he was a confident kid but when you got to know him he is one of the easiest guys to talk to. He is hilarious, beats to his own drum and has his own opinions. He is odd, but in a good way. He is kind of quirky about how he thinks about things.â€
Everyone knows now that Wil was drafted as a catcher and for the first couple of years he was working at being the next Royals catcher.
Theriot was a college sign and spent his first full season playing with Idaho Falls. Myers joined that club as the year progressed. â€œIt is my personality to take in new guys. I try to welcome them and not pre judge them by their signing bonus. Usually your gut reaction says this is an arrogant kid but I remember thinking that he was an 18-year-old kid away from home and in Idaho. Maybe he is just not that talkative.â€
Theriot says â€œI got to know him and quickly learned how passionate he was. How he wanted to get better. He goes about things differently and it works for him. He has a routine that might make people think he does not like to be told what to do but I think he knows what works for him. He never got away from who he is and always stuck to just being very simple. He wonâ€™t look at video and he wonâ€™t break down mechanics. He just doesnâ€™t overanalyze things. Like I said, he is simple. That is a hard thing for an 18-year-old to know what they wanted. But, he knew and he stayed true to that.â€
Hayenga says â€œI think he had all the tools to be a good catcher. But, I feel he could play anywhere in the field. At catcher he definitely improved in terms of focus in my time playing with him (also teammates at low A Burlington) in North Carolina he would have lapses and passed balls but in Iowa he did a much better job and he had an absolute rocket for an arm. He was a smart enough player to make it at catcher.â€
Kuebler added â€œCatching wasnâ€™t his thing but I know he will be a great OF and I think catching allowed him to take a better approach to the game. He got a mental edge from it.â€
Theriot â€œthey donâ€™t let many people do what Wil did. He could catch if he still needed to because he is just a pure athlete. He is like Craig Biggio. He is an athlete who loves a challenge and will never say no.â€
Myers thoughts on catching align well with his teammates â€œI had mixed feelings on catching, I liked it but at the same time I didnâ€™t. I loved catching guys like John Lamb who just located the ball so well. But, I hated wild pitchers and catching bullpen and the early work stuff. But, I loved being in control of the game. Tony Tijerina did a great job with me and I loved working with him. He is a great guy and I still talk to him. He did the best he could to prepare me as a catcher.â€
Theriot remembers â€œWil said he did not catch much in high school but he never complained and he and TJ (Tijerina) put in a lot of work. He could easily have said no, but he didnâ€™t and I know he had dreams of catching in the big leagues.â€
After a couple of years the Royals made the transition of moving Myers from catcher. Hayenga thinks it was the right idea â€œhe hated catching, and loves hitting. I would talk to him about the transition and I know if he could hit all day he would. He was willing to catch because the organization wanted it and he is not a guy to turn down a challenge but I knew mentally he would be better as a hitter first rather than worry about catching all the time.â€
The move to make Myers a OF was much easier with the emergence of Salvador Perez at catcher. â€œThat was the thing, I wasnâ€™t a terrible catcher but I looked bad when Sal was on the team because everyone wanted to throw to him. I canâ€™t blame them because he is the best catcher I have ever seenâ€¦plus he is the only person I have ever seen with bigger hands than myselfâ€ (laughs)
- â€¢ Ben Theriot retired from baseball in 2012 and is now pursuing his college degree at North Texas. He and Wil still talk regularly and he plans on being at Myers MLB debutâ€¦â€I just want people to read this and know what a great guy he is.â€
- â€¢ Jake Kuebler was released by the Royals in July of 2012 but soon signed with the New York Mets as a pitcher. He was sent to the Dominican Republic in the fall and is throwing 94 and getting solid reviews from baseball people I have talked to.
- â€¢ Keaton Hayenga retired from baseball during the 2011 season after facing another surgery on his shoulder. He played basketball at Bellevue Community College where he averaged 17.7 points per game. He transferred to Washington State this year and he recently gave my dad and myself tickets to see him play against KU at the Sprint Center.
Wil began to build a bond with several teammates during the Arizona instructs after his first full season. Ben Theriot became one of his closest friends. Theriot says â€œin a year and a half he had gotten so much better. He enjoyed the game and he always made things fun.â€
Wil Myers was no different from any other 19-year-old kid trying to learn his way as an independent person. Theriot recalls â€œat Idaho Falls, Wil, Dwyer and I hardly knew each other but we all hit it off. In Arizona we had an apartment together and we were just regular roommates arguing over what to watch. Wil loved the Office and he never cooked. I donâ€™t think he knows how. He loves Chipotle and Chic-Fil-A.
One thing is consistent with Wil Myers and it is how simple he keeps things. It is charming in some ways and definitely something that some of his teammates appreciated.
Kuebler remembers a game during instructs â€œLane Adams, me, and Wil were sitting in the dugout and we were talking about going golfing. Adams (A Former D-1 basketball recruit) told us he wanted to teach us to play hoops if we would teach him how to hit. I remember Wil, without skipping a beat, just said you see ball and you hit ball. He doesnâ€™t over think anything he is like a Billy Butler in that way. Everything is just so simple to him and to some it comes across as cocky but to me it is just Wil being Wil.â€
Hayenga says â€œWil was the least flashy of any big bonus guy I played with and it wasnâ€™t even close. He bought a big SUV but his clothes and look were not a flashy look at me thing. Simple things made him happy like just being with the guys. Socially, girls would approach him but he really preferred just being around the fellas. He just is not an out and about type of guy. His personality is so laid back and I think how he talked to me on the mound was indicative of his personality. He would tell me to just breathe and relax it was just that simple to him.â€
Theriot added to that with â€œI remember Will Smith, Dwyer, and I would try to go someplace nice like a steakhouse and once that would come up Wil would just say no. It wasnâ€™t because he didnâ€™t want to be social but the guy just loves what he loves and that meant something simple and not fancy so that meant Chic-Fil-A or Chipotleâ€
I made a tweet late in the season that Subway used to be so great before all the other sandwiches places opened and proved to be better. Wil tweeted back â€œYou are wrong, Subway is awesome,â€
More from Theriot â€œWil and I are a lot alike because we donâ€™t surround ourselves with negativity and I think that, for him, it comes from being from a strong family who gave him a strong support system and raised him to be positive. He is not confrontational at all and does not get involved in that stuff. He removes himself from negativity. He is a good teammate who is there to work. He wants to be in the big leagues and he respects the game and everyone in the organization. He is so confident in his abilities and knows that he can only do what he is doing. Nothing phases himâ€¦he has so much confidence as a player that if you ask him who the best is he will always say he is. I donâ€™t think that is arrogant but he just has such a belief in himself that he always feels he is the best player on the field. I wish I knew how to make adjustments like he does. I am jealous of him. I know he listens to coaches but he also has the confidence to say that he likes it but he relies on what he knows works for him.â€
Besides just being very simple in his approach to the game one other trait of Myers is pretty consistent and that is his competitive spirit.
His mom says â€œHe is very competitive at anything he does. Whiffle ball, Golf whatever he wants to win. If you tell him someone is better he wants to prove you wrong. I remember he went to this Perfect Game event in Minnesota and he was trying out as a catcher and his dad told him there were 2 kids more polished than him and boy it made him mad. In his mind he wants to prove you wrong and I think this has served him well.
Theriot loves that about his good friend â€œHe has a competitive spirit and wants to win at everything which makes it hard for guys like me because he is good at everything from Golf, Ping Pong, Pool, Hoops, and Video Games. We would play Guitar Hero and he would play on the expert level. If he got a 90% he would want 91 and so on.â€
Hayenga: â€œHe was competitive in everything he did including cards. He would not lose at Spades. He will win at everything he does.â€
I told Myers about a story I had heard about John Elway being so competitive that one time Steve Young beat him at pool at Johnâ€™s house. The next time Young came to town there was a new pool table and Young learned it was because Elway had lost on the old one. Myers laughed and said â€œI donâ€™t know if I am that competitive, but yeah I can understand that.â€
Myers: â€œI never want to lose at anything. I am competitive in everything I do. Ping-Pong, Hoops, Guitar Hero, But, I donâ€™t get upset with baseball like I do with other things. There are more failures in this game. I learned in little league you canâ€™t get a hit every time.â€
Family is also very important to Myers and being an older brother to high school freshman Beau is very important. Pam Myers says â€œa lot of people who follow Wil from home know how important his family is to him. When Wil is home he doesnâ€™t like to talk about himself. I remember someone asked him what he was up to and Wil answered that he had gotten a job at a high school. He is just really cordial to people. For someone who at 18 was given so much he has done a really good job remaining humble. When he comes home picks up Beau and takes him to hit, takes him to the field he has taken responsibility for his brother in that capacity. There is a 6 year difference between the boys and when they are together they have a good time. He is a good big brother and Beau looks up to him and he is real protective of Wil. He is as proud of Wil as anyone.â€
2012 teammate Terry Evans added â€œI have seen how close Wil and Beau are and how big of an influence Wil has on him now and going forward. I guess I was kind of his older brother this season and I know it is Wilâ€™s best interest to take care of Beau. I tried to be passionate about having Wil learn from the mistakes I have made and I think Wil will pass that along. Wil knows it can be hard on Beau to be his little brother. He never wants Beau to be disappointed in him.â€
Pam Myers: He could have changed, gotten himself in trouble but I think he has stayed true to himself. He has great agents at CAA and he talks with them a lot. He has a good support group. A typical day for us when Wil was here always was built around baseball. Our vacations were to watch him play. Our memories always include his teams. We just went and watched one of his teammates get his number retired at his high school (Levi Michael)
I told Pam how several of the guys had thrown Wil under the bus in terms of his lack of cleanliness in his room. *Ben Theriot was the accuser (: Pam said â€œno comment, (laughed) but that is true.â€
Myers â€œThe slump in 2011 had nothing to do with my leg. I wanted to go to Arizona because I wanted to stay in the routine of playing. I needed to stick to that strict routine to find my rhythm. The game wasnâ€™t hard but it was becoming miserable for me. It was a hard time in my life. Baseball was always easy and now it was a job. I hated what I was doing on the field and going to Arizona was the best thing for me. I had to reverse the failure. Before I left for the AFL I came home, hit the weight room and worked out with Mo Blakeney (former Expos minor leagues 1995-1998) at his hitting factory. I have worked with Mo since I was 13 or 14 and he told me my swing wasnâ€™t wrong. It was all my confidence. I had to get that back and get it in my head I was the best. I donâ€™t express that to anyone but I have to feel it. I have to feel itâ€¦being the best is the only way I can think in my life.â€
I was told after the great season that Zack Greinke had in 2009 by a Royalsâ€™ executive that the thing he liked most about Myers was that he did not care if Zack Greinke was on the mound or Tom Smith. I shared this with Wil and he laughed and said. â€œIn my head I think every pitcher has no reason to throw to me. I think I can hit a home run off every pitcher. After the 2011 season I knew confidence is the key for me. I donâ€™t want to come across as arrogant or for people to think I am bragging but confidence is crucial.â€
An interesting note was Wil telling me he tries to stay away from â€œYesâ€ people. He doesnâ€™t want people feeding his ego with praise. Again, I think he knows what drives him and he stays away from the positive and negative.
Terry Evans is a 30-year-old veteran who has played 20 games in the big leagues over 3 seasons with the Cardinals and Angels. He does not seem like a guy that a hot-shot 21-year-old super prospect would be friends with. But, in 2012 they became Omahaâ€™s version of the Odd Couple.
Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said â€œI donâ€™t think any of us in the organization knew what a great guy Evans was when we signed him. He was like a big brother to Wil and it made for a really good situation for us. We never asked Terry to shadow Wil and he did it on his own. We learned about it and obviously it worked out well.â€
Terry Evans: â€œIn spring training my locker was right next to him. I had heard about him as I entered the organization (prior to 2012) there was a lot of talk about who he was, but I wanted to see what he was like for on my own. I know that without ever seeing him play before I watched him hit and the way the ball came off his bat it was different. It jumped off his bat with his quick hands. His fly balls got a lot of air. As games started I watched him having fun. His approach was to play the game hard but he had fun. It almost came across like nothing bothered him. But, I know that confidence will help him going forward.
As the organizational rosters were being filled out to begin 2012 Evans knew he was headed to play AA ball for the Naturals.
â€œI knew we were both going to AA and I just told him we were going to be roommates on the road. He was like alright, thatâ€™s fine. Our first night we did not know each other well but we ended up talking for 3 and a half hours. I told him of my life, my entire roller coaster career through my testimonial. I told him how the first half of my career was a mess and how strong my faith with Jesus came over me and gave me hope. I told him how I took baseball off the platform and put Jesus on it when I was 24. I told him how, before that I partied a lot and took my career was in trouble. I told him how I would be crushed if I had a bad night and a 0-4 would become a 0-10. I could not deal with failure because baseball meant too much. I finally realized baseball was just a game and what was more important was Jesus. It changed my whole perspective and I learned that stats donâ€™t tell the story. I was happier and began to play the game right. I know Wil was hearing me and he asked a lot of questions. He knew I had played in the big leagues but that is not what he was interested in. He wanted to know me and my story.
Wil has a desire to follow Jesus and grow in that relationship. He knows he is not perfect and I know his hope and faith are most important to him. I think his eyes were really opened about life this year. He is very open about his life and at 21 he has learned from his mistakes. He is very mature for his age which will surprise people because he is goofy. But, he is a smart kid and other than having a nice necklace I would not know he had money. He is very generous with his time and a great guy to be around.
Ben Theriot and Evans both talk about how much time Myers gives to fans. Theriot talked about how Myers was almost always the one volunteering to sit at a table and greet fans and sign autographs. Evans says Wil is always flipping baseballs to kids. Maybe Myers remembers how much that ball meant to him from the Braves player at the one big league game he went to.
As a player Evans has played with some big time prospects and considers former super prospect Brandon Wood to be his best friend. He says this about Myers based on past experiences â€œI think the one thing that sticks out about Wil is he trusts his ability. I think sometimes prospects can listen too much especially when they struggle and they lose a sense of self. Wil will take advice and he will listen but he balances that with his ability and God-given talent. He knows what he needs to succeed. So, he will listen but he wonâ€™t compromise. At 21 he has a great balance to his game. He is so level-headedâ€¦ at 21, I canâ€™t relate because I didnâ€™t have that. I think he will continue to grow and when he gets to the big leagues he wonâ€™t be overwhelmed. He is ready and his preparation on and off the field is much older than that of a 21-year-old. In 5 years I expect people to see the real side of Myers and I know they will like him a lot. He will be a great player and fans will like him. I know it is tough for KC to compete with other markets but Wil loves this organization. He doesnâ€™t talk bad about them and it would be real easy for him to be bitter. He doesnâ€™t buy into any negativity.â€
Evans added â€œI know the fans of Kansas City will like his simple approach. He enjoys fishing and it doesnâ€™t take much for him to be entertained. I do look forward to seeing him in a suit though. I have never seen him in one. I also see him as a very charitable guy with his time and money. He is always asking what he can give his time to. I donâ€™t think you can ask for a better guy for the organization and your community.â€
*Evans retired from baseball after the season and has joined UPI a baseball ministry group that was started by former big leaguers Tony Graffanino, Mickey Weston, and former Brewers minor leaguer Brian Hommel.
2012 was a big year for Wil Myers. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout graduated to the big leagues leaving the mantle of top minor league talent up for grabs. After a disappointing 2011 Myers followed up with a terrific performance in the Arizona Fall League and a far from intimidated approach to big league spring training. He leaned on the person he trusted best with his future, himself.
â€œI knew I needed more pop as a middle of the order hitter. I knew the most RBI I had before this season was like 85 and I wanted 100. 20 Home Runs was my goal too. I knew I needed to make some changes so I stood more upright, and started swinging earlier and often in counts. If it was in my zone I was not letting it go by.. I am a pull hitter but I also recognized the pitches down and away were hittable too. I was just more aggressive this season. My first two seasons I was more patient and a good two strike hitter.â€
When I asked him about his approach not sounding like the teachings of former Royals hitting Coach Kevin Seitzer he added â€œI donâ€™t have knowledge of Seitzerâ€™s approach. I was always in AA-AAA so I knew very little of his (approach).â€
â€œAfter dealing with struggles in 2011 I had some this year too but really felt so much confidence in how I dealt with it now. In the 3rd series (of the season) in New Orleans I felt really, really bad and went 1-5. I didnâ€™t feel good but I went and hit in a cage and everything felt right. You have to trust your hands it isnâ€™t mechanical. The next night I wanted to hit one over the RF foul pole and I was looking off speed but got a fastball away and went over the RF foul pole. I rounded the bases and just smiled in my head thinking you just have to trust yourself.â€ I feel like at 21 I still have a lot of learning but also know that if I trust my approach throughout my career I will be good.â€
â€œAt the break I was hitting .327 with 27 home runs. I had a bad August and I know I was feeling ready for the big leagues. I was looking for a trade to be made and paying too much attention to stuff out of my control. I was frustrated. I have wanted to be a big leaguer since I was 4 and I was so close. But, my mental approach was not the same as it was when I struggled. It was just my dream getting in the way. Dayton stayed in contact with me and half way thru August I got the news that they could not promise I would get called up. I asked why not?â€
â€œThat hurt me and made me upset but I recognize that as soon as you think about the front office you will be doing yourself wrong. I was worried more about me and I canâ€™t control what happens there. Mike Jirschele had a meeting with me and asked me how I was doing. We were just a couple of guys talking and he approached me so well. He asked me about our opponent and how I would do things different. It took my mind away from what I could not control.â€
â€œIn my head I do know the thoughts on the 40 man roster and I know how it works. I canâ€™t say anything about what is going on with 29 other teams but I know they also have the same issues protecting guys. It was tough seeing Olt, Profar, and Machado come up knowing I had a great year too. I do what I do and I know the Royals have a plan for the whole thing. As far as the super 2 or whatever, yeah it is always frustrating to be that guy held down. But, I get itâ€
â€œI like KC a lot and I want to win. I feel the stadium is so underrated, I love the Plaza, downtown and people donâ€™t realize how nice the fans are. It really is one of the most underrated cities in baseball. I would love to stay in KC my whole career and win for those nice, loyal fans!â€
There is a fine line in arrogance. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you balance it is the key. Arrogance brings a solid belief in self and thatâ€™s something that is very important to being great.
A former AL scout says and he has watched Myers for years â€œWil has the confidence that every successful person needs. He has such a simple approach that makes the game seem easier to him. With that, always comes jealousy from players who might view him as not doing what they view as necessaryâ€. This kid is such a hard worker with good character. His work might be different from others but I know he is busting it. His coming up is absolutely about dollars. He is mature and was clearly ready for that life this last summer. He carries himself well around everyone and does not have that â€œswaggerâ€ approach. He is a guy everyone can build around. He will be an anchor in the clubhouse. Look, I get what people say about issues with some teammates but people are sketchy when you would rather keep to yourself. I know the guys that matter are fond of him. Remember, talent curbs opinions and views. He will always be a coachâ€™s player and not the lovable teammate which is fine, because as you allow yourself to see this approach is pretty fantastic.â€
I told Royals Director of Scouting Lonnie Goldberg about how much Wil Myers reminds me of Chipper Jones and he replied â€œWilâ€™s got way more free spirit, Chipper might be more focused on the field in terms of intensity. I donâ€™t want this to come out wrong about Wil but between the lines things are so easy to him. It can be viewed as not trying. Is the game really that easy? I mean his running times on the bases are good and speed is not always mentioned with him. He just really knows when to turn things up. He has a big league mentality in the minors and I think that can rub some guys the wrong way. He has really grown up with our organization.â€
More from Goldberg: â€œIf you think about Myers in relation to Hoz and Moose I always think about how those guys came thru the system with a solid group of guys. Guys like Clint Robinson, Lough, Seratelli, and D Rob. With Wil the focus has always been on him and I canâ€™t imagine what he would do if the focus was not on him.â€
â€œI do think he is misunderstood in some ways since he has always had to be the guy. He hasnâ€™t been able to be just one of the guys as he has always been behind that group a level or moving ahead of the group he is with.â€ I know he and Sal are close and Perez is a big influence on him.â€
I told Lonnie how some of the Royals players from the glory years used to tell me how rookies always were allowed to be rookies when they got here. Guys like Saberhagen, Gooby, Biancalana were always taken under the wing or shown the ropes by Otis, Brett, or McRae. I shared my thoughts on how Gordon and Butler had to come up and be more than just rookies and in my opinion it made the job harder.
Goldberg: â€œWhen we were with the Braves we always had veterans for the younger guys to learn from. I agree on Billy and Alex that they had to try to carry the team because of how we were built. I canâ€™t say for sure but imagine the pressure on Hosmer last season with the ad campaign and billboards. It canâ€™t be easy to do and I think it affected him. I know in my own experience it is nice to look over at a veteran like Mike Arbuckle in the draft room and know he has been there before. It is comforting and I would guess in any office space you would want the same. It isnâ€™t often a young group gets hot and stays hot all the way to a championship. It is hard to sustain that. We all need role models right?â€
â€œA guy like Wil is just very rare. He has that ability, intelligence and the freedom factor that goes beyond his gift, which is not always enough. I remember talking to him when he was double-A ball and he told me he was scuffling and losing confidence. He said he was trying to make too much happen. Next thing I know he starts the fall league and just dominated. I think that bump (struggling) has to happen. He proved everyone wrong. I just think there is so much pressure on guys like Myers, Hoz, and Moose these days. I mean even when these guys are kids they are under so much scrutiny with the dollars now involved and constant coverage from so many sources. You canâ€™t please everyone.â€
I will tell you that if you are involved in a conversation with Wil you wonâ€™t find better conversation. He was so great with our guys in his pre draft workout. I just loved that kid, he really makes me laugh.â€
I absolutely agree because when I talked to WIl for this interview it was supposed to be 20 minutes and we talked for over an hour.
Former Royals SS Buddy Biancalana has studied the mental parts of the game as a profession for the last decade creating PMPM sports- zone training and writing The 7 Secrets of World Class Athletes with his partner Steven Yellin. He and I spent some time talking about Myers and he said â€œtalent is fragile and knowing what I know now about the brain and how it affects muscles I know science has proven that there are processes that must happen for proven motion. Naturally, process occurs differently in people. What separates Wil Myers from other blue chip prospects is he is more care free. He is basically his own coach and he seems to understand on the deepest level what he needs to succeed. He knows others have info on how to get him out but he still utilizes simplicity. The fact that he uses simplicity is what makes you great. I know that what I felt like during the 1985 season is something I never felt again. The game became simple, I was in the zone. I spent my life trying to understand how to get back there. When you watch the greats like Tom Brady, Steve Young, or Derek Jeter after a great performance it is like they didnâ€™t do anything it all just happensâ€¦so simple right? It is all in the mind.â€
â€œYou have to believe you can win anytime. I remember that even when Buddy Black struggled he always knew he could win anytime. In a crucial game he shut down the Angels in 85. Buddy had that ability to just be.â€
Buddy hopes that the environment of the Royals allows Myers to just be too. â€œA big league environment can be rough. You want your guysâ€™ best abilities to come out. It can be a very fulfilling environment with respect and encouragement. But, if someone doesnâ€™t like you it can make it tough.â€
We talked about the 85 Royals and how everyone had a unique role and goofy kids like Saberhagen and Gubicza could just be. How, Dick Howser plucked a light hitting SS to be a pivotal member of the World Series run. Think about the World Champion Giants this season and how so many personalities just came together. I remember their closer Romo saying these guys just let me be who I am.
Buddy added â€œA great leader accepts everyone for who they are. They appreciate differences and run a clubhouse with complete acceptance.â€
When I hosted the Royals post game in 2008 and 2009 I spent a lot of time around the team. It was a bad clubhouse in many ways. I remember Billy Butler having trouble fitting in and teammates like Jose Guillen making it hard for the younger players to have a voice. Frank White once told me that when kids came up to the Royals they could just be rookies. They all were different and the guys in the clubhouse let these guys develop. He mentions guys like McRae, Otis, and Brett taking different players under their wings in different ways (Gubicza and Saberhagen lived with Brett as rookies) Myers will join a young club sometime next season. But, does this club have an identity? Do they allow guys to just be? There are a lot of similarities between Butler and Myers. If you talk to Butler the game offensively is very simple to him.
Goldbergâ€™s final take on Myers future: â€œI see a lot of Bryce Harper and Trout in Myers. In the draft we comped Harper to Myers quite a bit. They both have some flare and might flip the bat a little too far at times (laughs) maybe Harper will talk a little too much at times. I think he also has some Trout in him too. I think it is interesting how neither Wil nor Trout was as highly regarded by most. Skill wise I think he has some of both those guys in him.
Written by Greg Schaum
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