It was a start. There is little else that can be said about Wil Myers’ Tampa Bay Rays debut. This will be an evolving story, one that promises twists and turns, ups and downs, and it had to begin somewhere.
That beginning happened on a major stage, certainly. There was a time early Tuesday, with Myers going through his pregame stretches at Fenway Park, when he allowed himself to take in the moment’s significance: “I’m in the big leagues,” he told reporters he thought then, four years after his journey through the minors began. “This is awesome.”
Years into the future, if Myers becomes the player the Rays envision him to be, his numbers Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader will be largely forgotten: 0 for 4 with a strikeout, with three fly outs to the outfield, two of those to center after just one pitch.
Instead, the experience that included a two-hour, 59-minute rain delay will be recalled as the game Myers wore No. 9 in a Rays uniform for the first time. It will be recalled with “Remember when?” or “Where were you?” nostalgia, a dustbin moment amid a string of flash points worth remembering. (Such as when he earned his first major league hit, a single to left field, off left-hander Felix Doubront in the second inning of the doubleheader’s second game.)
Until then, there are only first impressions with which to work. Growth will take time. So will comfort. Jitters for him are normal, expected. In his first four at-bats Tuesday, Myers looked like someone making his major league debut.
In the second inning against right-hander Alfredo Aceves, he swung at a 92-mph first-pitch fastball and hit a harmless fly ball to center field. In the fourth, he worked the count to 3-2 before flying out to left after six pitches. In the seventh against reliever Andrew Miller, he was called out on strikes after four pitches. In the ninth, he swung at an 88-mph first-pitch fastball and flew out to center.
These opening steps are part of an inevitable learning curve. Myers was promoted after a recent hot streak at Triple-A Durham — a .354 batting average (34 for 96) with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in his last 23 games — but adjusting to the majors will be a process, not a sprint. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon put it best, when after the doubleheader’s first game he said of the rookie, “He was very eager today.”
And why would Myers be anything but? His parents, Eric and Pam, were present in that venerable stadium to watch his debut in the Green Monster’s shadow, as well as others close to him. This was a beginning, of course, but also a destination after treating the Kansas City Royals’ farm system as his personal spotlight in recent years. He had gained a reputation, accompanied with hype, uncommon for a 22-year-old as a Next Great Thing.
This also was the start of something new for the Rays. Their willingness to part ways with right-hander James Shields last December in the blockbuster trade with the Royals that brought Myers to Tampa Bay meant they were confident in their bet on the young player’s future. Of course, they believe he can be a star. They believe he can evolve within the franchise in a healthy way, one that will give them a spark this season and beyond.
On Tuesday, Myers had arrived, apparently so excited that he wore his batting helmet in the dugout in the first inning despite him hitting in the sixth slot. But within that same moment, he also departed for his next great challenge: Sustained success at the game’s highest level. That is how he will be studied.
“It was awesome,” Myers told reporters of his first at-bat. “First at-bat in the big leagues is really cool. I was a little anxious there swinging at the first pitch. You usually don’t swing at that one. … Being here at Fenway, it was just a good experience.”
The start was an experience: One Wil Watch over, another just begun. One game down with countless more for him to come. One dream realized, more to chase.