ST. PETERSBURG — Wil Myers sat in front of his locker Friday afternoon, bat in hand, and was asked what he would like to accomplish during the final four weeks of the season.
That started Myers on a candid look back at 2014, which he called “one of the most difficult years” of his life, one in which he failed at hitting a baseball for the first time since he began playing the game, one in which he missed 70 games with a right wrist fracture and basically lost his way.
“I’m telling you, man, people don’t understand,” Myers said. “They’re like, ‘Well it can’t be too bad because you’re in the big leagues.’ No, it’s even worse because I’m in the big leagues. I feel like some people think because you’re in the big leagues it doesn’t matter. It’s the worst thing in the world to struggle in the big leagues and for everybody to see it. It (stinks). It’s no fun at all.”
Myers hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 88 games last season after joining the Rays on June 18. He was voted the AL Rookie of the Year. The Rays were eager to see what he could do over a full season, and he was expected to be a big piece in what was supposed to be a championship team. Instead, Myers took a .217 average into Saturday’s game, with six home runs and 27 RBIs. He was 6-for-37, with a home run, two RBIs and 14 strikeouts since coming off the disabled list.
“I had a good year last year and wanted to come out and do even better than last year, and (I) put too much pressure on myself to do that, started watching too much video, trying to focus on what the pitcher likes to do, what he likes to throw in different counts. But at the end of the day, you can’t control what the pitcher throws,” he said. “I’ve got to be focused on me more than anything.”
Watching video was not a big part of his preparation in the past. It’s one example of how Myers got away from being the hitter he was last season.
“I’m trying to go to everybody for advice, my teammates, coaches, my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, anybody, ‘What are you guys seeing? What are you guys seeing?’ ” Myers said. “Of course, I’m getting 50 different answers so I’ve got 50 different things going on inside my head instead of knowing I’m the best hitting coach for me. Each player is their best hitting coach.”
Some of the advice he’s received is the time-honored, “Go out and have fun.” Myers said there is no fun in 6-for-37.
“Oh, it’s the worst,” he said. “You can’t fake having fun. I can’t pretend having fun going 0-for-4. You can’t. People say to pretend like you’re in Little League. Well, I’m not in Little League and it’s not fun. I can’t pretend. I have to go out there and battle, grind out each and every at-bat, instead of pretending to have fun, because I can tell you what, going 0-for-4, it doesn’t matter if it’s here or in Little League, it’s not fun. You can’t fake it.”
The hardest part is finding the path that leads back to being Wil Myers.
“When I’m swinging the bat well, I can stand on my head and hit,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. When I’m swinging the bat well, I’m just looking for a good pitch to hit and hit pitches over the plate that are in my zone.”
“There are times when I get in the box and I don’t feel it and I know this is not going to be a good at-bat, instead of getting in the box like I am Wil Myers, instead of getting in the box scared about what’s going to happen,” he said. “Last year, I knew something good was going to happen. Whether I struck out or hit a home run, I felt good getting in the box. It’s just one of those things. I haven’t been able to find that this year. It’s been tough, man, there’s no way around that. It’s been the most difficult year I’ve had.”
But, Myers said, he does see things getting better.
“Before I got hurt, I didn’t see that at all,” he said. “I see my timing getting better. I see myself more aggressive on the right pitches and just missing it, so I see the light at the end of the tunnel. The biggest thing is just having patience for it, because with the way I’ve played I wanted it to come right now.”