Brett Myers failed to record an out in the third inning before being pulled off another rough night as his return to the starting rotation became a disaster.
The previous season, Myers had approached the Phillies’ emergency situation and thrown a curveball that got them back to the postseason. The Phillies, unlike Myers, saw this as a temporary solution. They traded for Brad Lidge a month into the 2007 season and told the starter-turned-closer that he was a starter again.
“I was still a little mad that they went and got Lidge. I told them I was better than him,” Myers said. “And then it was 40 for 40, so I kind of ate my foot.”
The Rangers blitzed Myers for five innings in June 2008, swelling the pitcher’s ERA to 5.84. He was upset about starting over and was promoting such. Myers went to Charlie Manuel’s office after the game and asked the manager to put him back on the field. Myers said he could find out there.
Later that night, the Phillies called Myers’ hotel room. They were sending him to Triple A.
“I have been (selected).” Like really (ticked). “I was just angry,” Myers said. “I had five years in the major leagues, so I didn’t have to leave. I was like, ‘I’m not going.’
Myers, 43, bought a pickup truck earlier this year and converted it into a “baseball wagon.” His oldest son, Colt, is one of the best high school players in the country, and Meyers accompanied him this summer.
Fifteen years after winning the World Series, the entire 2008 Phillies roster was retired following the departure of Cole Hamels in August. Some have found jobs in the game. Others chased new careers. Some became baseball fathers.
“Wait,” said Myers, who last pitched in 2013 with Cleveland. “I haven’t officially retired. Can I still do this in 10 years?”
In June, Myers drove from his 65-acre farm in Jacksonville, Fla., to a Colt tournament in North Carolina. The 18-year-old shortstop committed last summer to the University of Florida, the same school his father was committed to before the Phillies drafted him 12th overall in 1999.
Colt Myers can play any position: “He’s a hybrid player,” his father said, but he has made his home at shortstop. He is expected to be drafted in June. Scouts always ask his father when he’ll play, but Colt Myers wants to get to the majors his way.
“He wants to make his own journey and I’m proud of him for that,” Myers said. “I’m excited for him. I hope he gets what he wants. I just challenge him a little bit and he amazes me every time I challenge him. He wants it just as bad as I wanted it so I see a lot of reflections on myself. How much he wants to play in the big leagues on his terms.” “Special. I can’t stress that enough.”
Father and son returned home from North Carolina, and the next day Myers flew to Cooperstown, New York, where his two younger sons — Koda and Kayce — played in a tournament. He returned home and left later that day on a trip to Phoenix with the Colts for the Perfect Game All-American Game. They returned home and drove the truck the next day to a tournament in Atlanta.
The runner’s truck — which often brings his son’s teammates to weekday events where other parents work — has been a good investment.
“The whole summer, we were probably home for two weeks,” Myers said. “People always ask me: ‘Do you miss baseball?’ Well, I don’t have time to miss because I have three boys playing and I’m at the ball field during baseball season about seven days a week.
The game has changed since Myers left high school and the youth baseball landscape has changed dramatically. There are more scouts, more events, more interest, more pressure. A baseball father who doesn’t care much about mechanics, he lets others coach his son.
But he spent 12 years in the majors, learning along the way what it takes to succeed.
So when the Colt scored four times in a game this season, Baseball Dad didn’t say anything. He remembered when he was struggling as a young major league player and how he would respond by changing his routine, hoping to find a quick fix. He did not learn to stay the course until later in his career. He wanted to see how his son would react.
“I just sat there and didn’t say anything,” Myers said. “He got in the car, went home, and I knew he was crazy. But I didn’t say anything. And the next day, he did the same routine.”
Colt Myers struck out 50 the next afternoon in the backyard batting cage, just as he does before every game. Nothing changes after a tough day.
“Most kids would be drowning in their grief when they play a game like that. That’s why I wanted to see how he would react to it. There are going to be games or weeks or months where you’re going to struggle,” Myers said. “I just said: ‘Tonight, try Just hit the ball over the scoreboard into right field. This is your approach. That’s all you have to do.’ He goes up and first hits a homer, to opposite field on the scoreboard. I’m like, damn. From 0 for 4 to that is a pretty good bounce.
Question from the dead
Before becoming a full-time baseball father, Myers was the front man in his own rock band. Myers said it helped him transition into life after pitching. Five years ago the party brought him to a concert where he discovered Undertaker, the legendary professional wrestler.
With the Phillies, Myers was often backstage at WWE events — “half the writers are from Philadelphia,” he said — but he always stayed away from Undertaker.
“He never went out of character. I was afraid of him,” Myers said. “He always wore dark clothes. He looked like he had died. I don’t know if he’s really wrong or not. You can’t say that.
But Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway, seemed friendly this time and Myers struck up a conversation. Myers — who put his music career on hold when his son’s baseball career became dangerous — wrote songs with his wrestler brother-in-law.
“I told him that and we were talking about jobs,” Myers said. He said: What is your biggest regret? I said I don’t know. Many things were running through my head. I don’t know. Then I sat there for a minute and it occurred to me because I had never thought about that. I never knew how to turn it off. I didn’t know how to turn off the switch when I left the stadium. And when I came out in public, I was still as foolish as I was when I took the mound.”
Myers wasn’t expecting the WWE Hall of Famers to meditate — “It kind of struck me as weird,” Myers said — but it gave him a lesson to take back to Colt. On the field, Myers told his son, “Be a jerk.” But learn how to turn it off.
“You don’t show up to anyone and you play the game the right way and with respect,” Myers said. “But I want you to play hard and I want everyone to not like you because that means you’re really good. But when you get off the field, you shake hands with the kids and kiss them. Be yourself. You don’t always have to be (tagged) like I was. I felt like if I talked to the wrong person, I will misbehave and then I will blame that man for talking to me.
“My career has changed”
Myers was angry after the Phillies told him of their plans to demote him. He called Rod Nichols, his Little League coach, and mentored him.
“Do you believe this?” Myers said.
Nichols can. He tells Myers that he’s not helping the team and should swallow his pride. Myers calmed down. His old coach was right. Come here, it’ll be all right, Nichols said. The Phillies wanted the assignment to last only 20 days. They allowed Myers to stay in Philly and meet with minor league teams in the days he started.
“That’s when my career changed,” Myers said. “I thought to myself: How much worse could it get?”
Myers made four starts in the minors, and relaxed so much that he took a bus trip with the Clearwater Threshers. After Myers was demoted, pitching coach Rich Dobie said the pitcher’s confidence was as low as he had seen it. He returned to the majors a month later, refreshed. Myers posted a 1.80 ERA in his first 10 starts, seven of which were Phillies victories as they entered playoff contention.
With two weeks remaining in the season, the Phillies had a doubleheader on Sunday against Milwaukee, but Myers had pitched four days earlier. However, he told Manuel he was ready to go.
“Give me the ball,” Myers said. “I wanted to showcase that game. I knew I had a hot hand.
He watched the first few innings of the first home game before driving to the field for the second game. He listened on the radio as Joe Blanton pitched seven innings against the wild-card-leading Brewers.
“I could feel the energy when he was throwing the ball before I got there,” Myers said. “You can feel it.”
The Phillies entered that Sunday night a game behind Milwaukee having won the first three games of the series. They handed out huddle towels, the field was rocking, and Myers pitched a complete game on three days off just 10 weeks after being sent to Triple-A.
The Phillies raced to the playoffs, Myers worked off CC Sabathia, had three hits and three RBIs against the Dodgers, started a World Series game, and ended a once-disastrous season in a showcase bullpen with the son now guiding him. He has redeemed himself and has the ring to prove it.
“I try to tell a lot of kids the story of how you can be in the dumps like that, but all of a sudden you come out of there with a ring at the end of the year,” Myers said. “That’s a great story. You never know how it’s going to turn out for you. I guess I needed a break.”