Back in 2017, Casey Fahy, the scout for Royals, decided to share some helpful advice with a man who did not need it. Fahy sent multiple text messages to Whit Merrifield containing tips from a former MLB player. This athlete had managed to become an important 25th man on an MLB roster and to have a successful career as one.
At this time, two years ago, Merrifield had his majors’ debut. However, he was not an established everyday starter on the big-league roster of his team. In fact, Merrifield started that season in the minors. This was why Casey Fahy, the scout who had signed Whit, decided to send the texts.
Merrifield, however, does not remember this correspondence. Still, he can see how it could have happened. He claims that was never his way of thinking because he did not aspire to be a utility player. His mindset went against other people’s wishes. This is why Merrifield believes he would have quickly disregarded Fahy’s messages if he had read them.
Whit will join the best baseball players tonight at the Cleveland Progressive Field for the midsummer showcase. This will be his first game as an MLB All-Star. The journey to this moment was marked by Merrifield’s work ethic, talent, perseverance, defiance, confidence, and finally, opportunity.
Today, Fahy is glad that Whit did not listen to his advice. Instead, he went on to surpass all expectations. He became the 25th man and so much more.
The manager of Royals, Ned Yost, has called Merrifield the best player he has known who is able to efficiently play multiple positions defensively. He has managed to play well every spot on the infield and the three outfield positions in the majors.
In his first complete season at Royals, Merrifield was the leader in terms of runs, games, doubles, hits, stolen bases, walks, batting average, and OPS. He also managed to become one of the very few players in history who lead the majors in both steals and hits. He joined the likes of Willie Wilson, Dee Gordon, and George Brett.
The great play has continued into this season as well. Merrifield is leading the majors in All-Star break hits, aiming to reach 200 in a season. He is tied for the second place in the number of bases, and for the fourth in extra-base hits. He has 11 home runs under his belt, only one less than the last season’s total.
Fahy says that Whit has surpassed all expectations and, after hitting the ceiling, he “continues to punch through it.”
How Others See Merrifield
Merrifield started his career as a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina. When Fahy discovered him, he was playing at East Carolina NCAA Regional. J.J Picollo, the scouting director for the Royals at the time, advised Fahy to pay attention to Merrifield as the man was exceptionally versatile.
Fahy remembers that Whit was always creating opportunities for his team. He was usually responsible for most of the runs during a match.
Fahy first compared Merrifield to Ben Zobrist, a three-time All-Star. Zobrist earned the World Series MVP award in 2016. At first, this comparison induced some eye-rolls, but nowadays, the people of Kansas City are fine with it.
When Merrifield left college, Picollo saw him as a kind of player who filled a specific role in a roster. The Royals needed men who could easily exchange one spot for another, and Merrifield was perfect at this. He could play second and third base, right, left, or center field. Whit truly provided flexibility to his team whenever they needed it.
Justin Smoak, the first basemen of Toronto Blue Jays, was Merrifield’s teammate in South Carolina for a season. He says that Whit did not hit with much power, but the game has significantly changed since. Now, the athlete like Whit can be extremely valuable for his team. Smoak believes that Merrifield’s work ethic is responsible for his great success. He adds that Whit is a good athlete who deserves the chance to play at the All-Star Game.
Merrifield claims that his swing is unchanged from the times when he played at college. The main difference in his game is the fact he has gotten stronger and bigger. He also understands himself better as well as the pitchers. He gained valuable knowledge and aims to continue growing and fixing the aspects that may cause him trouble.
According to Picollo, you can put Whit in a five-hole, a three-hole, or a two-hole, and he would still be a productive hitter. The scouting director claims that Merrifield is the same person he always was. He is only a more talented player whose development into an All-Star came at a later age.
Today, aged 30, Whit Merrifield is the oldest position player in history to be selected for the very first time to play at the All-Star Game.
Opportunity to Be Your Best Self
The bullpen coach of Royals, Vance Wilson, had managed Merrifield when he was playing in minor leagues and witnessed his incredible development.
Wilson claims that the deciding factor in Merrifield’s success was “opportunity.” He believes that a flaw of the game is the fact that “we put ceilings on people.” According to Wilson, the one thing letting people reach their personal ceilings is an opportunity. There are often times when industry assigns limits to players, and the coach believes that is “unfair.”
Royals have put a ceiling on Merrifield’s career to a degree. Wilson mentions that the presence of athletes like Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas as key players in a World Series limited opportunities for baseball players such as Merrifield.
This is the reason why Wilson, who played behind stars like Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, admires and respects Merrifield for his perseverance. He pointed out how much hard work and endurance had taken Whit to go through the minors and play at a high level wherever they placed him. A lot of effort has taken for Merrifield to change his own ceiling.
Wilson added that everyone develops at different rates. Merrifield’s clock simply differs from other players’. He pointed out that the things Whit is accomplishing at 30 some do at 23 or 24. Merrifield does not let his age define him. Wilson feels confident that the game is getting an exceptional All-Star player.