Myers making a hit with Durham Bulls
Thomasville has never really had a star major-league baseball player to call its own, but that’s about to change. At this writing, Wil Myers is probably the hottest player in minor league baseball, and he shouldn’t be in the minors much longer.
He was just named International League Player of the Week of May 27 – June 2. One of his two homers on May 27 may have been the longest ever hit at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DPAC). By the time the week was over he had hit four home runs, 15 RBIs and .423 with a slugging average of 1.038. Considering he was Minor League Player of the Year last year, one would think he could be called up at any moment. Not Myers.
“I’ve still got some things to work on,” Myers said, during an interview late last week at DPAC.
“Really, just my overall game,” Myers responded. “There are always little things you can work on. You can always get better at the game. Every single day you learn something new. That’s what I’m here for right now.”
William Bradford Myers was born at Thomasville Medical Center on Dec. 10, 1990.
“I’ve lived in Thomasville all my life,” he said. “I started playing T-ball when I was 4 years old and I’ve been playing baseball in some form ever since.”
His serious interest in – and ability to play – baseball led the boy, who goes by “Wil,” to choose Wesleyan Christian Academy for his high school.
“Wesleyan has a great baseball program with head coach Scott Davis,” said Myers, whose brother, Beau, is playing there now. “”They’ve sent a lot of people to schools, and I know their education was great, so it was a good fit for me.”
It was also a good fit for Wesleyan. Myers led them to the North Carolina Private School Championship in 2008. His senior year, he batted an astronomical .532 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs. This, plus his success playing for Post 87 Senior Legion ball in the summer, was enough to rank him No. 2 in the nation as “best pure hitter” among high school players by Baseball America. The Kansas City Royals drafted Myers in the third round in June 2009.
The Royals also announced that Myers was now a catcher.
“I was kind of a utility guy in high school,” Myers recalled. “I played shortstop, pitcher and the outfield. The Royals wanted me to learn a new position, so I had to do that.”
His pro career actually began in the Triad. Playing for the Burlington Royals of the Appalachian League, he only had two hits in four games, but they were a triple and a home run. That was enough to move him up to Idaho Falls, where he batted a sizzling .426 with four round-tippers and 14 RBIs in 18 games. That performance allowed Myers to be named the top prospect in the Pioneer League that year.
Success continued at A-ball in 2010. Myers started the season at Burlington, Iowa, in the Midwest League, where he batted .289 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 242 at-bats. Moving up in midseason to the Wilmington, Del., team in the Carolina League, the Thomasville native hit .346 with four home runs and drove in 38 in 205 at-bats. Things did not go as well his first year at Double-A. Playing for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League, Myers batted .254 with only eight homers and 49 RBIs in 99 games.
“I dealt with a lot of injuries that year,” Myers remembered. “I was in and out of the lineup. It was just hard for me to really get going at the plate.”
That off-season, the Royals decided to move him to the outfield, ending the experiment of Myers being a catcher.
“I enjoy the outfield a lot,” Myers said. “Sometimes it gets a little boring out there, but I feel like that’s the best position for me long term.”
The switch paid off for Myers at the plate. Returning to Northwest Arkansas, he batted .343 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs. After 35 games, he was promoted to Triple-A, where he batted .304 at Omaha with 24 homers and 79 RBIs. His season totals of 37 home runs and 109 RBIs were enough to earn him, among other honors, Topps Pacific Coast League Player of the Year and Minor League Player of the Year by both USA Today and Baseball America.
“I was healthy all year and able to stay in the lineup,” Myers, who normally plays right, recalled.
The Royals, in need of pitching at the end of last season, chose to trade Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for veteran right-hander James Shields with a few other players involved.
“It was a mixed feeling,” Myers said of the trade. “I was definitely excited about going to such a great organization, but I miss some of my teammates and coaches in Kansas City.”
In Spring Training, some were surprised to see Myers sent down to Triple-A after doing so well at that level the year before. But Myers had no problem with the move.
“Playing in Durham is awesome,” he said. “I’m enjoying my time here, and it’s close to home.”
Before getting on the hot streak that he’s on, Myers saw his average slip to the .240s, but he wasn’t concerned. In a week he’s back up to .280 while second in the International League with 46 RBIs.
“I wasn’t too concerned about the slump because I was still having good at-bats,” he said. “I just had some luck not going my way. That’s the way the game goes. I knew it was going to turn around for me. Luckily, lately it has.”
Kevin Reid is a guest baseball columnist.