The Wil Myers story (Part 5) Rise of the Redneck from Thomasville
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 hittableÂ 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 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
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.Â 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€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.Â
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