We all heard the good news last week that Wil Myers performance had forced the Royals to promote him to Omaha. Now that he’s only one step from the major leagues, fans are demanding to know – When will he arrive? Who will he replace? Will he be successful? Who will be the face of the Royals in 2013 and beyond? Will we need to put extra dirt in the batter’s box? Wait… huh?
Yes, the Royals may need to put extra dirt in the batter’s box when Wil Myers arrives in Kansas City. Let me explain. There are some rituals that almost every player goes through when standing in the box. Between pitches, the majority of hitters will step out and then back in again to mentally restart their rhythm. They tap both sides of the plate with their bat, take a couple practice swings, and then face the pitcher and wait for the delivery.
A few players have slightly more elaborate batter’s box rituals. You may remember Mike Sweeney sweeping the dirt of the box with his feet, tapping his shoes with the bat to knock the dirt from his cleats, re-stretching the Velcro of his batting gloves, and pressing his helmet back down on his head. Lots of batters do these things, but few do all of them between every pitch as Sweeney did.
I couldn’t find any video of Joe Randa standing in the box, but I seem to remember that he would pull up the shoulders of his jersey before each pitch. He also plastered that weird grin on his face that caused fans to refer to him as the Joker. Just for fun, check out “Batting Stance Guy’s” take on some historic Royals. You’ll be surprised how many players you’ll recognize just from their ritual in the batter’s box.
Some baseball players have truly unusual batter’s box rituals. No doubt you’ve seen the windmill practice swings, the elbow flaps, or Craig Counsell formerly of the Brewers and Diamondbacks holding the bat as high over his head as his arms could reach.
When I was in college in the 1980’s, my school’s baseball team played Oklahoma State a couple of times each year. The OSU Cowboys had a player named Jim Traber who was drafted in the 21st round by the Orioles and ended up playing a couple of years in the big leagues. I hated Jim Traber, for no reason other than I disliked his batting stance. When he came to the plate, he would take a few practice swings and then point his bat at the mound until the pitcher went into his windup. I always thought that if I was a pitcher, if any hitter pointed his bat at me I would immediately throw at his head. Fortunately, none of the pitchers I saw ever lost their cool with Jim Traber the way I would have.
Which brings us to Wil Myers. Most Kansas City fans haven’t had a chance to see Wil Myers play yet. I had an opportunity to watch him with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals recently, before he was promoted to the Storm Chasers. There are also several videos of him posted on YouTube, including some very nice pieces of video from Lee Warren @OmahaBaseball. (Lee is a good follow on Twitter too by the way.)
When you see Will Myers hit, you’ll notice that he has a pretty elaborate set of batter’s box rituals. He’ll do a variety of things between each pitch that you’ve seen from other players: knock the dirt from his cleats, straighten his cap, step out, tap the plate, sweep the box with his foot, etc. But he also does something you typically only see in sandlot games – at some point in almost every at bat, he’ll lean down, grab some dirt and rub his hands together. Wil doesn’t use batting gloves and it doesn’t appear that he uses much, if any, pine tar on his bat either. Grabbing some dirt is most likely the way he keeps his hands dry and helps him to get a good grip.
If you’ve read any of my previous stories, you may know I’ve been a Royals fan for a very, very long time, beginning in their 1969 inaugural season. I’m definitely an old school guy who doesn’t understand players who wear their caps crooked, hang bling around their necks, finish the game with a clean uniform, or think it’s acceptable to award home run records to losers who use steroids or human growth hormones. I want to see guys taking out the second baseman on a double play, standing at the top of the dugout cheering their teammates, and pitching inside (way inside) when Miguel Cabrera or Josh Hamilton comes to the plate.
I don’t know if rubbing a little bit of dirt on your hands before swinging a bat is truly old school or not, but I certainly like how this approach could add to the personality of our team. It never hurts when you have a few players who are willing to get their hands dirty.