KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The famous Kauffman Stadium fountains ran dry for Tampa Bay Rays slugger Wil Myers in his first game back since being traded from the Kansas City Royals in December. Hoping to hit a home run into the water beyond the outfield fence, Myers instead went 0 for 4 in an 11-1 rout by the Royals on Monday afternoon.
"We got crushed, but it's cool to be back here," Myers said, already seeming to let go of a bad day at the office that included a pair of strikeouts.
Before the game, Myers was asked about reaching the fountains. Earlier in his career, he asked that they be turned on for an appearance at the ballpark. He wanted to hit a home run that day, too.
"I definitely want to get one today," Myers said.
He flied to deep right-center in his first at-bat against Jeremy Guthrie, and that was as close as he'd get. Myers said his disappointing day against the Royals wasn't because he got too keyed up playing for the first time against his first organization, which traded him for ace right-hander James Shields in what will be a franchise-defining deal for Royals' GM Dayton Moore. Myers acknowledged that it was "different" playing this game, but it didn't overwhelm him.
Rays manager said the Royals "pitched him tough. And he's just been off for a couple of games. It's just bad timing. ... He's going to be fine."
Myers came in batting .302/.356/.472 with nine homers, and his .828 OPS ranks third in the majors among rookies. By those standards, he also would be the best hitter on the Royals at age 22. Shields, who is nine years older, has been everything the Royals hoped for. So far, it seems like both sides got good players, perhaps just what they needed.
The Rays are jousting with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East, and the Royals find themselves at the absolute edge of wild card contention. They haven't made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1985 and they're a huge long shot right now. And, as Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes, if the Royals aren't in the playoffs again by next season, and if Shields has moved on via free agency, the next GM will be picking up the pieces with Myers still slugging for the Rays.
The setting Monday, a makeup game played in the middle of a sweltering weekday afternoon, in front of not quite 5,000 people, wasn't the best atmosphere to take fans' collective temperature on Myers. Their reaction to him was barely noticeable — their reaction to anything was barely noticeable — though Myers was able to hear some of them when he played defense.
"They were kind of wearing me out in right field," Myers said. "I couldn't really make out much of it. Other than that, it was fine."
Back in May, when the game originally was scheduled, Myers hadn't been promoted from Triple-A yet. So this was his first game at Kauffman since the Futures Game in 2012. That day, fans gave Myers a standing ovation — even if there also was a feeling that the organization might move him to another team.
This time, could Myers feel the collective angst of the Kansas City baseball fan base? Does he feel like "the one who got away"?
"It was just a baseball trade," Myers said. "I don't know if people feel that way. It helped [the Royals]; They got two good pitchers [Shields and Wade Davis], so I thought it was a good trade."
Myers will get more chances to prove it from his side. To the Royals, and at Kauffman Stadium, his almost-home park with the beautiful but elusive fountains.
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