By Mike Brandyberry
You don’t always choose the path on which you travel.Sometimes the path chooses you. All of that is a little true for Indians’ prospect Bryson Myles.
Myles is a 5-11, 230-pound speedy outfielder at Lake County looking to transition and develop from an exciting college stint to a long-lasting professional career with the Indians. He currently is hitting .259, with a home run and 15 RBI during an injury-riddled first half of the season.
But before the Cleveland Indians had their eyes on Miles as a prospect, the TCU Horned Frogs had their sights set on him with a different role in mind. Miles was a devout football player in high school with hopes to play linebacker at the collegiate level.
“I committed there my junior year of high school. Things just didn’t work out,” Myles said. “They wanted me to steer away from baseball my senior year of high school and I wasn’t ready to do that.”
Myles informed TCU’s football staff that he still intended to play baseball. TCU feared that Myles would be drafted if he continued to play. Afraid that Myles would sign professionally after high school and TCU would have wasted a scholarship, the school pulled its offer.
“When I told them I was going to keep playing baseball, they pulled the scholarship,” Myles said.“I got lucky and got a scholarship to play baseball at a junior college. I got in two good years there, and one good year at the university, and now I’m here.”
At Stephen F. Austin University in 2011, Myles hit .411 with 99 hits, eight home runs and 36 RBI 241 at-bats. His 53 stolen bases for the Lumberjacks were the top mark for all Division I players and only the second time anyone has swiped more than 50 bases at the D1 level in the last five seasons.
Baseball America named Myles a second team All-American, and he is the only Lumberjack to earn All-American honors. After his solid collegiate spring, the Indians drafted him in the sixth round of the June 2011 Amateur Draft. Once becoming a professional, Myles has strived to put in the daily work to excel, while accepting struggles along the way.
“You just gotta learn how to deal with failing a lot more. In college I knew I was going to get two hits,” Myles said. “Here, you might not even touch the ball two times. It’s more of a mindset. You come to work every single day, you’re going to be successful. In college, you play three or four days a week and those other three days you get to relax. Here, you have to work every day.”
Myles played at short season Mahoning Valley last season, where he found success. In 50 games with the Scrappers last season, Myles stole 20 bases and hit .302 in 192 at-bats. He had 10 doubles and a home run. His speed on the field and the base paths continues to be the highlight of his game.
“Growing up and playing, it was always about putting pressure on the defense, because they will mess up,” Myles said. “Whether it is stealing a base or turning a single into a double, I try to do whatever I can to with my legs to make them mess up. I try to make them stop me, instead of me stop myself.”
This season, a sore hamstring hampered Myles for most of May. Myles was sidelined for a week, only to return and reinjure himself, sidelining him again for a week and a half. The injury has slowed him down on the base paths, but given Myles and the hitting coaches the chance to work on developing his power. With his linebacker build, the organization hopes he can progress to not just being a speedy player, but one who can drive the ball to all fields of the park.
“They are trying to keep me from being a one-dimensional hitter as far as just pulling the ball to left field,” Myles said. “I work to pull the ball to left, but also to hit the ball with power to right field.”
His sore hamstring has limited him to only 11 stolen bases, and his power is still developing. Myles currently has two home runs on the season, however, he now feels fully healthy and able to benefit from his hard work. The Captains have faith in his power ability, as they have planted him in the middle of their batting order, hitting fourth or fifth most nights.
Tuesday evening, Myles was 2-4, with a double 3 RBIs and a majestic bomb to deep centerfield at Classic Park. The ball nearly hit the lighthouse, over 400 feet from home plate. The blast was his second home run on the season.
“It was a fastball, middle in. I worked the count to 3-1 and I knew I was going to get a pitch to hit,” Myles said. “I just tried to stay inside the ball. It’s been a while since I’ve seen live pitches. The first couple games back I was just up there swinging at everything, kind of pulling off a little bit.”
“Our hitting coaches in the organization have been great,” Myles said. “It has been a lot of work, but they have been very patient with me and I’ve been patient with myself. It can get frustrating at times, but I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve figured it out. I know once I do, I know I can be something great.”
Patience isn’t what you normally expect from a former linebacker. But most linebackers don’t pass up the chance to play on a team that went on to play Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl, instead electing for junior college and eventually bus rides in the bushes to reach their bright light dreams.
Myles says he never thought his career would turn into what it is today.
“I actually played with or against a lot of guys that were on that team,” Myles said in regards to the Horned Frog team that defeated Wisconsin 21-19 on Jan. 1, 2011.“I missed it my freshman and sophomore year in college, because I still had that tenacity. Now I see where the game of baseball has taken me, and I’m more than happy with the path that I’ve taken.”
Photo: Ben Zedner