Just days away from competing for a spot on an opening day Major League Baseball roster, Wil Myers took some time away from the game to reflect on where his career began.
Before a crowd of former classmates, teammates, teachers and coaches at Wesleyan Christian Academy on Tuesday, the 22-year old Thomasville native — alongside his parents, Eric and Pam Myers, and brother Beau — became the school's first player to have his jersey retired.
"It seems like a while ago, but I had a great time here at Wesleyan," Myers said. "It's a great school, and the baseball program is awesome."
One must turn the clocks even further to discover Wil Myers's first memories of the sport.
A former classmate of his father's, Mark Hicks, coached Wil Myers in T-ball at Tom A. Finch YMCA. He excelled at the sport even then, when at five years old, he was asked to play shortstop. Eric Myers recalls his son showcasing a strong throwing ability in firing balls across the diamond to the first baseman "harder than he could catch them."
The defensive skills Wil Myers first honed at the YMCA translated through high school and into the minor leagues.
"I remember my first games were at the Thomasville Y, playing T-ball there," Wil Myers said. "I really enjoyed the game at that level. That was a great experience for me."
In high school, Trojans' coach Scott Davis presented Myers with an opportunity that helped set him apart from other prospects. Because of his versatility, Myers has played nearly every position at different times in his career. During his sophomore year, Davis put him behind the plate.
Drafted by the Kansas City Royals as a catcher, Myers was moved to the outfield to preserve his health. A teenager, he moved his way quickly through the Royals' farm system and became one of the most promising players in the minors. Last season became a culmination of all the tools and experiences that helped shape his life.
Following a season that saw him hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBIs, Myers was named Minor League Player of the Year by both USA Today and Baseball America. Three months later, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
"He is really grounded. He left here at 18 and really had to grow up early," Eric Myers told the Times last season. "So far, he's made good choices. He's always been a happy-go-lucky guy, never been too serious."
It is this type of down-to-earth demeanor that has allowed Wil Myers to say all the right things in the midst of tremendous success. He is excited about the trade and looks forward to an opportunity to make the big league roster after being invited to the Rays' spring training complex in Port Charlotte, Fla.
"I think every baseball player has imagined himself playing in the big leagues," Myers said. "Hopefully one day I'll get the call...having a new opportunity with the Rays is the biggest thing. I just want to go out and have four good at-bats every day and do my best."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.