Breakout Performer: Tampa Bay Rookie Wil Myers Has Fueled the Rise of the Rays
Wil Myers, the 22-year-old Rays rightfielder, has arrived. It's been more than a month since Tampa Bay called the rookie up on June 18, but after getting multiple hits in 10 of the Rays' last 14 games, raising his batting average from .256 to .331, and earning the number three spot in the lineup, he's now truly making his presence felt.
The success of Myers—who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent former Rays hurler James Shields to the Royals last winter—has unquestionably contributed to Tampa Bay's ascension to the top of the AL East. We caught up with him for a wide-ranging Q&A about Hall-of-Fame pitchers, brotherhood, favorite home runs, and duck-sized horses.
SI: Who made the call to tell you that you were joining the Rays?
Myers: I got called up early in a game I was playing with the [AAA] Durham Bulls. When I returned to the dugout my manager [Charlie Montoya] said I had to leave the game because I might be going to the big leagues. He was shaking his head, like "Yes." I walked downstairs and the trainer followed me in and gave me my flight itinerary. I was out the next day.
FACT Prior to getting called up, fans filled the "WilVille" section of the Durham Bulls' Athletic Park, located along the right field line. Each ticket in WilVille came with a shirt.
What was the first home run you ever hit?
It was in a tournament I played in Charlotte. I was 10 years old playing on an 11-and-under team, and I hit a backside home run. It was a line drive over the right-center fence.
Did you trot quickly or take your time?
Oh no, I sprinted around the bases.
You weren’t yet with team when Joe Maddon brought penguins into clubhouse (video below). What animal would you want to bring in there?
Can I do just a dog?
I like dogs a lot, so I’d just bring a bunch of them.
Most meaningful RBI you’ve hit with the Rays?
The grand slam I hit at Yankee Stadium off Sabathia. They intentionally walked Evan Longoria to get to me, so to hit a home right after that—and with the bases loaded—was pretty cool.
[mlbvideo id="28255017" width="600" height="336" /]
How often do people tell you that you’re on their fantasy team?
Feels like every at-bat I have in an away series somebody yells at me about it while I’m on deck.
FACT Myers' open batting stance and swing are eerily similar to teammate Evan Longoria's. Not a bad swing to imitate, of course. (Myers on right.)
Craziest fan encounter?
No crazy ones so far. It's the same thing we’d get in the minors, but with a lot more people at the hotel waiting for autographs. It’s kind of cool—when I’m in St. Petersburg, usually 3-4 people recognize me wherever I go.
Suffered any rookie hazing?
Only thing I had to do was sing the national anthem one time. I hear it every day, so I knew that one well.
FACT In a video titled "Wil Myers looks like Jim Carrey" -- because Joe Maddon called him a beefier version of the actor -- Myers' teammates talked about his size, ability, and personality.
Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck?
100 duck sized horses. Where did you come up with that?
It’s a popular question on Reddit.
Oh. Never heard of it.
Best defensive play you’ve made with the Rays?
One of the diving plays I made in Houston.
Strangest injury you’ve had?
I got staph infection in my left knee. Back in May 2011 around Memorial Day I was running back to my apartment after a rainout. It was still raining, and I slipped on the concrete and cut my knee on a brick. I had to get four staples and two stitches. It ended up getting infected. I was in the hospital for five days and lost muscle in my quad, so I missed a lot of time—nearly a month and a half.
Former Rays outfielder BJ Upton joined forces with his younger brother, Justin, in Atlanta. How would you and your younger brother Beau get along if you played together?
I’ve thought about that. I honestly have no idea. We’re six years apart, so when we were growing up we didn’t have the best relationship. Now we get along really well. I talk to him almost every day. But still, I don’t know. He’s turning 17 in December and playing Showcase ball right now. 4 or 5 schools called him in the past two weeks, so he’s doing well.
Any idea why your parents started abbreviating "William" as "Wil," with one L?
Just kind of happened when I was younger. I think it's because when they used it in a sentence they wanted to avoid “Will will...”
Your father is a former marine. If you guys got into a full-on fight, who would win?
[Thinks.] He would.
Best concert you’ve attended?
I’ve never been to a concert.
Yeah. I’m not into standing up and listening to the music. Not a big music guy.
Any hidden talents, tricks or skills?
Not really. I’m kind of a boring guy.
FACT A boring guy with a nonchalant home run swing.
Play video games?
I don’t. I don’t even own an X-Box or anything.
You must have some hobbies ...
I play golf a bit. But during the season I don’t really do anything. I don’t fish, I don’t hunt. I just play baseball, man.
What’s the best at-bat you’ve had with the Rays, other than the grand slam?
In my third game, in Boston, we were up two runs in the 7th inning. I saw a fastball away and got a two-out, two-RBI hit off of Alex Wilson to put us up four. We held on to win. That was exciting.
Which pitcher, during these Cy Young seasons, would be have been the toughest at-bat?
- Greg Maddux in 1995
- Roger Clemens in 1997
- Pedro Martinez in 2000
- Randy Johnson in 2001
Either Pedro or Clemens, because they’ve got the good two-seamer. Clemens' stuff was so ridiculous. Randy threw hard but since I’m a righty it wouldn’t have been as rough if I were a lefty. I’ll say Clemens.
Speaking of Randy Johnson—he’s now a rock music photographer. What post-baseball career would you enjoy?
Joining the senior tour and playing golf.
Favorite Bill Murray movie?
If you could be one cartoon character?
You’re on death row -- what’s your last meal?
Oh God. Steak.
What’s one word or phrase that should never be spoken again?
If you could deep fry anything?
Anything? Bacon. Well that’s fried. Ice cream.
Should toilet paper roll out from bottom or the top?