BOSTON -- The young face of Wil Myers, the 22-year-old Tampa Bay Rays right fielder, can be seen above the fat semi-circle of cameramen and talking heads and sportswriters. Barely. Depending on your angle and position, you can see his entire face, the top half of his face, or maybe the side view. That would be right side or left side, depending on your position.
His blue Tampa Bay baseball cap, TB in white letters on the front, still is on his head. He still is wearing his full road uniform. The expression below that blue baseball cap, whatever parts of it can be seen, is serious, but not glum.
"I was under the ball, and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off ," Myers says in an easy, steady voice. "I messed up, and it won't happen again … That play kind of gave them a spark, and a good team takes advantage of it."
He explains himself, of course, talks about the fly ball he let drop on Friday afternoon at Fenway Park, between himself and center fielder Desmond Jennings. A colossal mistake in the fourth inning of the first game of the best-of-five American League Division Series, a mistake that opened the revolving doors to an eventual 12-2 rout by the Boston Red Sox. Again, depending on your position and angle and aural acuity, you can hear every word he says or no words at all that he says. His back is against a brick wall. The semicircle that surrounds him is four deep, maybe five deep.
"God damn it," a cameraman shouts in the back, at some perceived injustice.
That is what the outer two or three rows hear. The curse is backed by the nearby sounds of happy Red Sox fans, still filing out of runways, babbling about their team's good fortune. The inner row actually can hear Myers. The second row cannot hear but has thrust forward an assortment of microphones and Sony digital pocket recorders to pick up the sound.
"It was tough," Myers says into the assortment. "I never had anything happen like that before."
The play -- destined for the lead of every game story, for the top of the loop in every Sportscenter, for a round of "What was he thinking?" questions at each replay -- was terrible. No doubt about that. With Rays starter Matt Moore chugging along with a 2-0 lead -- no outs in the fourth, Dustin Pedroia on first with the first Red Sox hit of the afternoon -- slugger David Ortiz lifted a long fly ball to right center field, close to the Red Sox bullpen.
The crowd let out a collective roar at the sight of the ball in the air, heading toward a sure home run and a 2-2 ballgame. Both Myers and Jennings knew better. They headed toward the same spot, maybe three or four feet in front of the bullpen, the place where the ball's trip would end. Myers waved his arm, a sign that he would catch the ball. He had it, had it, had it … walked two steps forward and let it fall. Jennings watched with the same incredulity as everyone else.
Did that just happen?
Ortiz wound up at second when the ball bounced into the bullpen for a ground rule double. Pedroia wound up on third. No outs.
A succession of curious plays would follow. A couple of balls off the left field wall, the Green Monster, would rocket past left fielder Sean Rodriguez and convert singles into doubles. Matt Moore would be a step slow to cover first base on an infield grounder, bang-bang, Stephen Drew safe by a half step. A strikeout pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury would skip past catcher Jose Lobaton. By the time all the bounces and skips and mistakes were finished, the Red Sox would have five runs and six hits. The ballgame would be a much different affair from the predicted pitchers' duel between Moore and Jon Lester. The rout had begun.
"Did anybody say anything to try and make you feel better when the inning was finished, when you got back to the dugout?" an interviewer in the front row asks Myers.
"A lot of guys, everybody," Myers replies. "There were all saying that it was early, that we had a lot innings left, we had time. They were waiting for me at the top step. That's what's good about this team."
After a while, the important questions answered two and three and four times, the right fielder leaves the interrogation. The semicircle opens to let him pass, then closes as Matt Moore enters. Same situation. He is backed against the brick wall. The assortment of recording devices is displayed in front of him. He talks into it.
"Remember, there were a lot base hits in that inning," he says, when someone talks about the ground rule double. "There were a lot of doubles off the wall. I was responsible for them."
He admits he was slow covering the base on Drew's single. No excuse. He was slow. He also says there was no mix-up in signs on that third strike to Ellsbury that bounced free. The signs were understood by both parties. Things like that just happen some times.
The semi-circle opens. Moore leaves. He is replaced by centerfielder Jennings, who says that nobody yelled "got it" or anything else from the Red Sox bullpen. There was no yelling that could be heard in the outfield. Then again, yelling was all that could be heard. The crowd was very loud.
"They thought David Ortiz just hit a home run," he says. "That's all I heard."
Semi-circle opens. Jennings leaves. He is replaced by catcher Lobaton, who laments the passed ball. ("What can I say? I gotta catch that ball.") Semi-circle opens, Lobato is replaced by leftfielder Rodriguez, who admits he misplayed the double off the wall by Red Sox third baseman Wil Middlebrooks. The ball had clanged off the metal "BOS" in the American League standings board, going past him on a weird bounce. The wall at Fenway is a problem.
"That is why they call it the Monster," Rodriguez says.
He stands where all of the interviewees have stood, where Myers stood, on top of a wooden pallet that is maybe a foot high, one of those fork-lift pallets usually at the bottom of some product delivered to the park. The visiting locker room at Fenway is small and crowded, so this pallet outside of the locker room, placed next to the brick wall, is used as a makeshift stage. This presumably is where the men of the moment, the stars of the game, would come to answer questions. This would be a place of glory.
"Let the man breathe," someone shouts from beyond the semi-circle, maybe another player, maybe not. "Let the man breathe."
There are no stars in this game. Not for the Rays.
This is where the confessions are held, public and humbling. The month is October. Mistakes must be explained.