Rays' rookie outfielder in Kansas City for first time since 2012 Futures Game
KANSAS CITY -- When Wil Myers last played at Kauffman Stadium, he was in the Futures Game with a sellout crowd in full 2012 All-Star bloom. He got a standing ovation.
"That was when I was with Kansas City, so I don't really know what's going to happen here," Myers said before Monday's makeup game between the Rays and Royals, his first Major League game at The K. "It's a Monday day game, so I don't know how many people are going to be here."
Myers, in a quirk of baseball fate, was back at the Kansas City ballpark for one day as his new club, the Tampa Bay Rays, made up a game wiped out by a snowstorm on May 2. That was well before Myers was called for his Major League debut on June 18, just after the Royals had completed a four-game series in St. Petersburg.
But he and the Royals would finally cross paths for the first time since Kansas City traded him to Tampa Bay with three other prospects for frontline pitching. It was, for fans of both teams, a blockbuster.
"Obviously, I think it was a big trade on both ends, giving away James Shields and Wade Davis, two great pitchers, and Kansas City giving away a few good Minor League prospects," Myers said.
One of the few good men was Myers, the Royals' prized hitting prospect. Their fans, quite naturally, were paying close attention when he was called up by the Rays and hit the ground running. In his first 42 games, Myers hit .340 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs.
Last winter's trade came as a surprise to Myers, especially after he whacked 37 home runs, drove in 109 runs and batted .314 for the Royals' top two Minor League clubs.
"I was shocked, I got a call right before my birthday on Dec. 9, and it took me by surprise," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be traded, but I was excited to join this organization -- it's a great organization to be in. I think the trade worked out both ways."
On the Royals' side, Shields has been a solid staff leader on a team having its best season since 2003.
Myers is from North Carolina, so he was pleased to start the season near home at Durham with the Rays' Triple-A club.
"My goal was just to get to the big leagues, no matter what team it was for. I played my Minor League career for Kansas City and, obviously, I wanted to be a Royal," Myers said. "I'm in the big leagues, but things changed."
One of the perks the right-handed power hitter had was playing against some players he'd followed as a kid growing up, including a couple of notables at Yankee Stadium.
"Andy Pettitte was the big one for me, and then [Mariano] Rivera was pretty cool," Myers said. "Facing Andy Pettitte, that's a guy I watched growing up over the years, and then I'm in the batter's box seeing him throw to me, which is pretty cool."
Results against Pettitte?
"I was 1-for-2. I got a base hit in my first at-bat, so I was excited about that," Myers said.
After his initial success, the 22-year-old right fielder has found tougher going of late. In his last 14 games, Myers has hit just .167 (9-for-54) with one home run and nine RBIs.
"I've played well so far, struggled the last five or six days at the plate, but I feel like I've done well so far," Myers said. "I thought I was going to hit with a little more power right away, but that's something that'll come -- whether it's the end of this year or next year. I feel that'll come as I get more experience."
Myers has helped manager Joe Maddon's club stay in the thick of the postseason race, and he enjoys the sometimes unusual ambiance.
"Joe does a good job of just keeping it loose in the clubhouse. He lets you do whatever you want to do. I think he knows that since you're in the big leagues, you kind of know what's going on and you know how to prepare yourself for a game," Myers said. "So he lets you do what you want to do, keeps you loose -- he has pythons in the clubhouse, stuff like that. Which is pretty cool, I don't feel like there's another other manager that does that. So I really enjoy playing for him."
Myers was the Royals' third-round Draft choice in 2009, so he spent four years in the Kansas City organization.
"I don't really keep in touch much with the players. I got a new phone so I lost everybody's number, but I miss a lot of the coaches I had -- George [Brett], he's obviously a great guy; Tony Tijerina, the field coordinator. He's the first guy I met in pro ball, I stay in touch with him pretty well," Myers said. "But as far as close friends, I didn't really have any here. I had some in Omaha that I still keep in touch with."
One of those Omaha pals was pitcher Will Smith, now up with the Royals, and they got in a visit after the Rays arrived on Sunday night.
"I played with [Eric] Hosmer and with [Mike] Moustakas a little bit. Just to be back here is pretty cool," Myers said.
The story goes that when Myers came to Kauffman Stadium after signing with the Royals, he took batting practice and asked to have the fountains turned on beyond the outfield walls because he wanted to hit some home runs into them. Did he really say that?
"Yeah, that's true," he said.
Now, after a snowout and a change of uniforms, Myers had another shot at those fountains.
"Yeah, I'd definitely like to hit one today," he said. "That'd be nice."
He'll have to wait till next year. Myers went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the Rays lost, 11-1.