The three-year varsity letterwinner is on track to break the all-time Truman State hits record. Given that, his teammates and coaches might be expected to praise his hitting skills.
“Obviously he’s offensive, but he’s also a really intelligent baseball player,” head coach Dan Davis said.
Junior pitcher Jarrett Eiskina cited Myers’s hitting as the strongest part of his all-around game, but praised his brain.
“He always seems to know what we’re thinking when we’re on the mound and he knows what to throw in which situations,” Eiskina said. “He’s very smart when it comes to baseball.”
Myers can hit — there’s no doubt about it. His hitting ability was what first impressed Davis during a workout before his senior year of high school. During his freshman and sophomore seasons he batted higher than .300 and had more than 30 RBIs, most coming during conference play. Last year he hit .310, but his RBI production slipped to 20. He said he’s hoping to boost those numbers this season.
Myers is not a one-dimensional player. Davis said the catcher touches the ball the most of any player on the field and is involved in every play. The pressure can be so intense that some major league catchers have struggled with the relatively simple task of throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Myers can hardly play baseball without it.
“Every once in a while during summer ball, I’d play a little third base or have to fill in somewhere else, and it just doesn’t feel like I’m in the game as much as I am as a catcher,” Myers said. “I just feel kind of lost without it.”
It’s more than the constant action though. Myers said he also loves the aspects of being a catcher that often go unnoticed or ignored.
“You’ve got to be baseball savvy,” Myers said. “That’s one of the things as a catcher people don’t see you doing — it’s not like you’re blocking the ball. You have to think what you would do in that situation, what your team would do and think about what you can do to stop it. Most of the time there’s something you can do to stay a step ahead “
Being a step ahead seems to be a trademark for Myers’s game. During a game his freshman year against the University of Central Missouri, the Mules had a runner on third, and Davis thought UCM might try to “squeeze” and bunt the runner safely home. He called for a pitchout, but the Mules didn’t go. Myers went to the pitcher and told him that if he heard “squeeze” on the next pitch he should throw up and away, and Myers would make it look like a pitchout. The next play, UCM did just that, and Truman earned the out. Afterward, the Mules’s coach approached Davis. The double pitchout was such an unorthodox strategy, he wanted to know if Truman had stolen Central Missouri’s signs and knew what play was coming.
“I said, ‘No, that’s our catcher,’” Davis said.
Myers’s ability to think ahead is apparent in other parts of his game as well. Like most Div. II catchers, Myers calls his own game, meaning he selects which pitches the pitcher will throw during an at-bat. Most catchers learn to call a game by following the accepted by-the-book baseball wisdom of what pitch should be thrown given particular situations.
“The person who taught me did it in a different way than most people learn,” Myers said. “I’m able to think about what the hitter expects and then call something different.”
Calling the pitches requires Myers not only to know the ins and outs of each pitcher’s throwing abilities, but also to pay close attention to what pitches a batter is hitting well. The ultimate goal, he said, is for the pitcher to throw something a hitter won’t be expecting.
Eiskina said having Myers behind the plate is a tremendous asset to the Truman pitchers.
“As a pitcher, if you start overthinking things, it can complicate things and mess them up,” Eiskina said. “Whenever he’s in there, you can trust him. You know that he knows what he’s doing when he gives you the pitch, and you don’t have to second guess anything. You’re just like, ‘OK, he said it, I’ll throw it’ — and most of the time it works.”
Myers said he usually relies on scouting reports for a hitter’s first at-bat, but after that he calls based on what he sees from the hitter and the pitcher on the mound. He said he has to always keep in mind both the individual pitch he’s selecting and set up the at-bat in a way that the pitcher doesn’t end up throwing four or five consecutive pitches of the same kind. Like many aspects of being a catcher, this part of Myers’s job isn’t visible to most baseball spectators. Regardless, he sees the value in it.
“The little things that you can do with your pitchers and help them work through situations and mental approaches and stuff like that where you’ve just got to kind of roll with it and understand the game, that’s where catchers come in,” he said, “And that’s what people don’t really understand.”
To hear Myers talk, one might get the sense he’s an invisible pair of hands behind the plate. Yet Eiskina and Davis see him. The coaches who named him to the all-MIAA honorable mention team see him. Devon Myers isn’t the invisible man. He’s just hard to define.