Meet 22-year-old rookie right fielder Wil Myers, who made his major league debut with the Rays on June 18 at Fenway Park and has been an important member of their lineup ever since.
He has been hitting cleanup and entered Friday batting .322 with a .351 on-base percentage, .496 slugging percentage, .847 OPS, five homers, 21 RBIs and six doubles in 30 games.
Baseball America ranked Myers the No. 4 prospect in all of professional baseball entering this season.
The 6-3, 205-pounder from North Carolina went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher “Smitty” Smith this past week.
Smitty: What was it like the first time you hit a homer over a fence as a kid?
Myers: I believe I was 9 and was playing 11-and-under AAU ball. I was playing in Charlotte and I hit a home run backside. I remember it was one of the most exciting things that I had ever done. I was just so excited when I saw it go over the fence. I still remember it to this day.
Smitty: So was that more exciting than hitting your first homer in the majors, (which was a grand slam)?
Myers: To be honest, I would say the most exciting home run was the one in Little League, but you can’t put in words what it was like to hit the grand slam in Yankee Stadium and the big situation that it was in. Just got a good pitch to hit on a 1-2 count from CC Sabathia. It was amazing.
Smitty: What do you like to do for fun outside of baseball?
Myers: During the season I don’t do anything but play baseball. I don’t wake up early in the morning and golf or go fish or do anything like that. I come to the ballpark early because I enjoy playing the game and enjoy playing in the major leagues. There’s nothing that can describe playing in the major leagues. So I enjoy coming to the field early and getting my work in and just hanging out at the ballpark.
Smitty: What do you do for fun during the offseason?
Myers: I play a little bit of golf, but I’m not that good. I’ll break 100, but I’m anywhere from 90 to 100. I don’t shoot great shots. I don’t lose many balls but I’m not very good at it.
Smitty: What was the worst job you had growing up?
Myers: I never had a job growing up. I played baseball all the time.
Smitty: So when did you know you could make it in the majors?
Myers: I never thought about another job besides playing baseball. Growing up, I remember always saying I wanted to play baseball. And that’s what I stuck to. Obviously, there’s chances you don’t make it, but I never thought of working in a warehouse or anything like that.
I always thought I was going to play Major League baseball. As you get older, you realize the chance of making it is slim. But I never had thoughts of doing anything else.
Smitty: Were you a good student?
Myers: No I wasn’t a very good student (laughing).
Smitty: Who really got you into baseball? Was it a family member?
Myers: Nobody really told me to pick baseball. I played all the sports growing up and I had the most success in baseball. I enjoyed playing baseball the most. I also played soccer, basketball, football.
Smitty: What was the first major league game you ever attended?
Myers: I went to an Atlanta Braves game when I was 5. It was the only major league game I went to until I graduated high school. It was in the old Braves’ field. I can’t even think of the name of it. I don’t really remember much about it.
Smitty: What was your favorite team and who was your favorite player growing up?
Myers: I didn’t have a favorite team growing up. Obviously, the Braves were on TV. I had a lot of players I liked. Obviously, everybody liked (Derek) Jeter. I liked Chipper Jones a lot. Those guys, man, you just see them play and they go about everything the right way. You really look at those guys and you want to model how you play after them.
Smitty: Have you changed your approach since being promoted, such as watching more video?
Myers: I came up with a hitting routine in Triple-A this year in Durham that I started doing when I got hot. And I’ve just stuck with that same routine since I got here. It’s just some extra cage work. I really haven’t gotten to the video yet because I’m not really sure exactly what I want to be looking for at this point of my career. So just getting in the cage and doing my routine.
Smitty: Do you ever take swings in the cage during games?
Myers: Every now and then when I DH I do. When I’m (playing) in the field, I don’t hit in the cage at all because I’m staying loose in the field running back and forth. When I DH, I’ll go in there every now and then. If I know I’m coming up that inning, I’ll go in there with two outs when we’re on defense and I’ll go in there and take maybe 10 swings.
Smitty: Who has helped you on your team?
Myers: (Evan) Longoria and (Ben) Zobrist. ... I’ve talked to those guys about pitchers; what they like to do in certain counts. (James) Loney is another good one I’ve talked to a lot. Every guy has their take on different things. I kind of choose what I like from each guy.
Smitty: Who is the best young player in the game right now?
Myers: One guy I have been really impressed with is (Tampa’s) Matt Moore. Obviously he started off the year great. He had a couple of starts where he wasn’t on like he can be. But since I’ve been here’s he’s been very dominant. He’s been one of the best young pitchers in the game, and I’d take him over really anybody right now.
Smitty: How many visiting parks have you been to so far?
Myers: I’ve only been to four. I’ve been here (Fenway Park), Yankee Stadium, Toronto and Houston.
Smitty: What did you think about that unconventional field in Houston?
Myers: I really like Houston a lot. I really like that field. I really like the way the ball carried there. I really liked the city. I’ve enjoyed every single major league city I’ve been to. I like it here. It’s a great ballpark to play in obviously with the history and the tradition here. There’s no place in the big leagues where I don’t think I would like playing.