Myers reigns as king of lefty specialists

Myers reigns as king of lefty specialists

NEW YORK -- In 1997, as a pitcher for the Mariners, Mike Myers and a Seattle television station wanted to see just how many people would recognize Myers on the street.

So they came up with idea of sending him to Pike Place Market, a famous fish market on Seattle's waterfront, to see if people would buy food from him just for the novelty of meeting a Major League Baseball player.

Myers' item was frozen fish sticks.

"People just gave me funny looks," said Myers, who is now the Yankees' left-handed specialist.

Such is the life of a baseball "LOOGY" -- a nickname coined by former STATS Inc. writer John Sickels for a (L)eft-handed, (O)ne-(O)ut (G)u(Y).

But among specialists, Myers is revered. In an online statistical breakdown of the historical use of LOOGYs by The Hardball Times, Myers is referred to as "His Majesty, the Big Kahuna, the King of LOOGYs," the "Hardest of Hardcore" of them all.

Myers is the all-time record holder for most appearances while facing just one batter. He has averaged less than two-thirds of an inning per appearance during his 11-year career and has the most appearances of any player since 1995.

"Whether there is something done, good or bad, there's a record for whoever does the most or least," Myers said. "So OK -- no big deal."

That's his attitude about a lot of things. Myers is an every day, blue-collar worker. He stands out from his teammates, who have constant media pressure. Myers almost treats his profession like a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.

Myers has been the commissioner of an "office" fantasy golf league for several years on different teams, and now heads up the Yankees' players and coaches league. He's an excellent poker player, according to his teammates, and reads the newspaper and does the crossword puzzle before games.

Asked to describe Myers with one sentence, bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan said, "He's the kind of guy you'd like to have as your next-door neighbor."

Myers, an Arlington Heights, Ill., native, was described in a different way by his bullpen buddy Ron Villone, with whom Myers warms up every day. It wasn't something you often hear said about a player.

"He's very sneaky," Villone said. "He's kind of that under-the-radar type, but at the same time he's a character."

There are a few tricky things about Myers. He shares his name with famous horror-movie character Michael Myers from Halloween and he enters games to the movies' creepy theme music.

Then there's his delivery, which Myers started using in 1996, his first full season in the big leagues. Suggested by then-broadcaster and former Tigers great Al Kaline during a plane ride, Myers' delivery comes from far out to his left and only about a foot above the ground to give Myers some "funkiness," as he says. Myers tossed perfect innings in his next two outings after the advice and stuck with it.

Villone also said Myers is very smart. Myers may have the physical appearance of your average 6-foot-3, 37-year-old father, but can dominate hitters by outwitting them, Villone said.

Myers, who became a specialist in 1995, uses a low-70 mph slider and a high-70 mph fastball. He mixes pitches so well that he's a nightmare for left-handed batters. Lefties are hitting just .241 off Myers this season and .209 off him in Myers' career.

Although teams sometimes counter Myers' entrance by pinch-hitting a right-handed hitter, it's Myers' success even against righties which has made him so successful. Right-handed hitters are hitting .219 off him this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.66 ERA overall this year.

"He's very important for us," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "That's why you sort of ignore him a lot, because there's that one situation where his name comes to mind."

Myers doesn't get the acclaim despite his years of success. But that's fine by him. Unlike some of his teammates who are recognized in bookstores or restaurants, Myers keeps a low profile. He resides in Highlands Ranch, Colo., with his wife Robyn, sons Christian and Daryl and a daughter named Laryssa.

"My pocket book isn't as big," Myers said. "I don't get as many endorsement deals. But I'm able to take my family out."

The tough thing is that the Yankees are Myers' eighth Major League team. Reliable bullpen help is always in demand, but can also become expendable at season's end. Myers seems to stay two years wherever he goes and has a two-year contract with the Yankees.

There are also other negatives to the job. Not only has Myers been asked to retire some of the most feared left-handed hitters -- such as David Ortiz, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. -- but he's asked to do it in some of the most stressful situations.

"He's a special kind of performer," Kerrigan said. "He can come in and instantly get an out. He knows it's crucial; that it's this one at-bat, this left-hander, and it has to happen now. It takes a special talent to do that, not only pitching skills, but mental skills."

The job can be mentally taxing because it can be difficult for specialists to get constant work. Some teams don't have any feared lefties in their lineup, or many lefties at all, meaning a specialist such as Myers could go more than a week without an appearance. Myers has pitched just 23 2/3 innings in 47 games this season.

But on Aug. 21, with the Yankees on the verge of their five-game sweep of the Red Sox, Myers' expertise was called on. This was the moment he had been signed for.

The Yankees were ahead by one run with one out in the seventh inning and the master of late-inning heroics, David Ortiz, stepped to the plate.

"I know the one guy that I'm going to be facing in this lineup," Myers said after the game. "It's not a whole lot of fun to think about, but it's fun when you succeed."

Myers succeeded, striking out Ortiz swinging with just three pitches. That was the end of his day -- three pitches, one huge out. It was precisely what he's done throughout his entire career.

"I do my thing and move onto the next day," Myers said. "I'll look at my baseball card when I retire, see how I did."

He can get one of those cards fairly easily. A Myers rookie card sells for 25 cents online.

But now that he's an all-time record holder, you better act fast; those things are selling like frozen fish sticks.

Ryan Mink is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.