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For Ben Cherington and the Red Sox, a glimpse of what could have been with Alex Meyer

03.01.13 at 10:43 am ET
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Twins right-hander Alex Meyer impressed at JetBlue Park on Thursday (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The scene during a quiet and sparsely attended “B” game featuring mostly little known minor leaguers from the Red Sox and Twins was an intriguing one.

In a game that featured few players who are likely to open the year in the big leagues, one prospect stood out — quite literally — above all others. Towering 6-foot-9 right-hander Alex Meyer, the prospect whom the Twins acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Denard Span during the offseason, blistered 95 mph fastballs and knee-buckling slider over the plate in an eye-opening display of obvious big-league caliber stuff. It was a promising sign for the Twins. But it was also an intriguing reminder for the many Red Sox officials who were there of what might have been.

In 2008, the Sox took a 20th-round flyer on Meyer when he was coming out of the Greensburg High School in Indiana. He had a scholarship commitment to the University of Kentucky, and the raw right-hander with huge upside was considered among the longest of signability longshots entering the draft, but the Sox figured there was little to lose by selecting him and then trying to pitch him on the merits of signing.

The pitch was far-reaching, and included either phone or in-person visits from scouting director Jason McLeod, then-GM Theo Epstein and Assistant GMs Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington. There was one visit in the middle of the summer that included a trip to the Red Sox clubhouse when the team was on the road in Cincinnati (about an hour from where Meyer lived) and then, at the trade deadline, owner John Henry made his private jet available for Cherington and Hoyer to go to Greensburg and try to make a late pitch (which included a $2 million bonus offer) to pass on Kentucky and start his pro career.

“They showed up at our house. They had a good load of them came in, they gave us their pitch. Then they ended up coming back on the deadline to try and sway our opinion, but my parents, I let them take control of the decision and it worked out the way it did,” said Meyer. “It was a tough decision just because, Boston Red Sox come to your house, your home and tell you they want you to be a part of their organization. It’s a pretty big honor, especially for an 18-year-old kid. At that point it’s my parent’s decision to make, not necessarily mine, and it all came on pretty quick. But it’s pretty cool to say the Boston Red Sox want you to play for them.”

The negotiations leading up to August 15 weren’t easy. The idea of facing a fork in the road with college on one side and financial security, potentially for life, on the other represented a stark contrast.

“It was tough just because it was a roller coaster of emotions not just for me but for my mom and dad too,” said Meyer. “It was their decision ultimately. Things happen the way they do. For parents to handle it, I was grateful to have them there to take care of it for me just because it all picked up so quickly. Come my junior year in high school, I wasn’t a prospect on the map for anybody. The draft was way beyond any thought I’d ever had and for it all to start happening so quickly I knew the right decision for me to do was whatever my parents said.”

Ultimately, Meyer and his parents decided that the big right-hander should follow through on his commitment at Kentucky. In so doing, he gained a measure of independence and off-the-field maturity while at the same time working to figure out his mechanics and gain polish as he continued to grow and fill out.

“I was two hours away from home which was close enough where I could go home when I need to but far enough away where I can’t go home every night for dinner,” said Meyer. “And I was still growing when I was at school, I think I grew an inch every single year. For me to be able to go out there, I could finally try and harness everything to come together. Being tall can be tough. I’m not going to use that as an excuse but it can be tough at times to repeat delivery. But being there and throwing as much as I did, it helped out quite a bit and still trying to build on it and get a little more consistent here as we move on.”

For Meyer, who ended up receiving a $2 million bonus as a first-round pick of the Nationals in 2011, there have been no regrets.

“It was neat to be able to say those guys wanted me as much as they did. It was an honor for the opportunity but again things work out the way they did,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at and just ready to play some baseball.”

The Sox, likewise, have little to lament about the full-court pitch that they made, doing everything imaginable in an effort to sign the talented prospect. Nonetheless, on Thursday — in the “B” game attended by Cherington, among many other Sox officials and scouts — the members of the Boston front office who watched him could have been forgiven for imagining what Meyer might have looked like in a Red Sox rather than a Twins uniform at JetBlue Park.

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