Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Wil Myers debuts for Rays against Red Sox

BOSTON — Dad saw something special about him when he was only 3 years old.

Eric Myers would lob a ball to his boy, Wil, in the living room of an apartment in Thomasville, N.C. Little Wil would swing a plastic bat as tall as he was.

"I'd kind of toss it to him and he would wait on that ball and … bam!" Eric said.

Before long, Eric had to put an end to the indoor batting practices.

"We had to go outside," Eric said. "He was breaking lamps."

On Tuesday, Wil, 22 and all grown up, was taking batting practice again with Dad, Mom and little brother, Beau, standing just a few feet away. This time, instead of that tiny apartment, batting practice was at legendary Fenway Park.

Wil Myers had made it. Tuesday was his first day as a Major League Baseball player.

"Dreams do come true," Myers' mom, Pam, said.

The dream actually came true Sunday. For Myers, and his entire family.

After a blockbuster offseason trade to the Rays, the 2012 minor-league player of the year called Pam during the second inning of Sunday's game at Triple-A Durham.

"Mom," Myers told her, "I just got called up."

Pam, sitting just behind home plate, couldn't believe it. "He said, 'Don't say nothing or act different or tell anybody,' " Pam said. "He said you can tell Daddy and Beau, but that's it."

Pam immediately thought back to all the T-ball games Wil played when he was 5. All the weekend tournaments growing up. All the times she plopped a lawn chair behind a backstop and spent a Sunday afternoon watching two, three, and sometimes four games.

"Seemed like there were a thousand of those games," she said.

After getting word from her son Sunday, Pam stood and tried to act as she didn't just get the best news she has ever received. She casually walked over to her husband sitting a few rows back with his parents, his 93-year-old grandmother and the family's pastor. She pulled him aside and whispered, "It's happened. Wil was called up."

"It was all I could do to hold it together," Eric said. "And Beau was with me. … And I said, 'Beau, don't leave me' because I was about to get emotional. I just said, 'Beau, don't leave me. I'm about to lose it here.' ''

Eric, Pam and Beau quietly excused themselves like they were going to the concession stand and met Wil underneath the bleachers.

"When I saw him, I just lost it," Eric said.

Eric couldn't stop thinking about the day Wil was drafted by the Royals in the third round of the 2009 draft.

"(That day) he said, 'Daddy, we made it,' " Eric recalled.

Eric told him the hard work was only just beginning. But when he saw his son outside the clubhouse in Durham on Sunday, he said he asked his son, '' 'Wil, do you remember that day that you told me that we made it?' And he said, 'Yeah, Daddy.' And I said, 'For the last four years, you made it. You made it.' And then I said 'I'm so proud of you.' ''

Eric is taking off this week from his job in the service department at the Crown Honda dealership in Greensboro, while Pam, an accountant for Carolina Container in Highpoint, is taking a few days as well. Beau, a 16-year-old spittin' image of his big brother, will not be playing for the Dirtbags this weekend. That's the same travel team Wil played for back in North Carolina. The whole Myers clan will be in New York City this weekend to watch Myers play against another iconic team, the Yankees.

As far as Tuesday's debut, well, it could have started better.

The biggest day in Wil Myers' life got underway a little after 9 o'clock. Wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans, Myers strolled into the cramped visitors' clubhouse inside Fenway with hitting coach Derek Shelton and pitching coach Jim Hickey.

A couple of hours later, he sat in the dugout, staring at the field, trying to soak in every moment of this special day.

As he stretched on the field, it hit him.

"I thought, 'I'm in the big leagues. This is awesome,' " Myers said.

Before batting practice, he was taken into the Green Monster and he looked at all the signatures of some of the major-leaguers who have played here. He signed his name. Then he spent batting practice knocking balls over that same wall.

If the story was perfect, Myers would have played the first game of a double-header under a brilliant sun, chasing down fly balls in rightfield while bashing baseballs into the gaps.

Instead, a soaking rain interrupted Myers' first-ever big-league game a minute shy of three hours. He ended up going 0-for-4 with three fly outs and a caught-looking strikeout. He had trouble corralling a ball in the corner. He even got heckled by the Fenway fans.

"They were a little loud out there," Myers said with a laugh.

In the end, however, it was all cool — a word Myers used over and over between games of the doubleheader.

"It was an awesome experience being the first game I played in the big leagues here at Fenway," Myers said. "It was cool."

Finally, he got his first hit in the majors — a sharp single to left in the top of the second of the nightcap.

That made it a memorable end to what already was an unforgettable day.

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