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Myers looked like his old self when he returned to Northwest Arkansas for the 2012 season. He was promoted to Omaha in May, and in 99 games he belted 24 home runs. In July, Myers played in the All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium, where he went 2 for 4 with three RBIs before a crowd of 40,000 chanting his name during every at bat. At a Fanfest event two days earlier he had attracted more autograph hounds than former Royals great Bo Jackson and Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Andre Dawson.
On fan message boards it was an article of faith that Myers would one day be the face of the Royals; after the Futures Game Myers thought he'd be asked to stay in Kansas City and join the big league club. "The year I got hurt and struggled was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because before then I was thinking, You know, this game is pretty easy," Myers says. "Well, it's not. But I do think about what would have happened—and where I'd be right now—if I had decided to stay in the car that Easter. Would I have gotten called up [to Kansas City]? Would I have gotten traded? I'll never know."
Myers's cell phone vibrated at 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. He was in Charleston, S.C., with a female friend watching Breaking Bad on Netflix, when the Royals' Picollo delivered the news: Myers was being traded to Tampa Bay. "I was sure that J.J. was going to tell me I shouldn't listen to the trade rumors," Myers recalls. "I was in shock."
The next morning, on his 22nd birthday, Myers and his friend drove to Atlanta to celebrate. They shopped at the Lenox Square mall, visited the Georgia Aquarium and had burgers at The Varsity restaurant. That evening Myers received his most gratifying birthday gift: a text from Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. "Just wanted to let you know that we are happy to have you and I will do everything in my power to make u feel at home," Longoria wrote. "See you soon bro."
"When I read that, I immediately felt more comfortable with the trade," Myers says. "I couldn't be more excited."
As he spoke of his future, Myers stood outside of the batting cage where his swing was born. The biggest crowd he ever attracted to a BP session in Davis's backyard was during his senior year, when more than 20 scouts and 50 neighbors were summoned by that hammer of maple on cowhide. Cars clogged the quiet, tree-lined street in High Point that afternoon; some fans didn't even get close enough to see Myers. They simply sat in their cars, rolled down the windows and listened to the sound of the big leagues.