By Mark Miller
It’s 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon at Grand Prairie’s QuikTrip Park. A few members of the AirHogs baseball team begin gathering for the scheduled 4 p.m. batting practice session.
In front of the visitor’s dugout is a bearded man in a gray T-shirt and black shorts playing catch with two boys. He is Brian Myrow, the American Association team’s player-hitting coach. The youngsters are his sons Tyler, 11, and Dylan, 8.
“Use your legs and bounce up,” Myrow tells Tyler after throwing him a ground ball. “Nice play,” he shouts to Dylan after another.
Myrow takes every opportunity to teach his kids how to properly play the game, something that comes naturally to him. Now in his 16th season of professional ball, he’s played at every level including 52 combined games with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
Today, however, he’s perfectly content with life. His job with the independent league team affords him the chance to often watch Tyler in Little League and Dylan in coach-pitch while he contemplates his future.
“I always wanted my kids to be able to see me play,” said Myrow, who turns age 38 on Sept. 4. “They come to games when they can and sometimes serve as batboys. They’ve even been on a road trip. Sometimes they’ll clean the guys’ shoes and the guys tip them money.
“I think it’s neat for them. I guess my wife (Terra) seems okay with it. The kids can come out here and hang out. I get to kind of stay in coaching and stay in baseball in case I decide to go that route. Right now the kids are a little too young for me to be gone all the time. It works out okay.”
Myrow pitched and played first base at nearby Burleson High School, spent two years at Hill College in Hillsboro, then two more at Louisiana Tech University. When he wasn’t drafted by a Major League team, he joined Winnipeg of the independent Northern League where he played from 1999-2001 mostly as a second and third baseman.
His 2001 season was good enough that the New York Yankees purchased his contract and he remained in their organization through 2003 before being traded to the Dodgers. He debuted at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 8, 2005 and though he grounded out to second base, it was memorable.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a big crowd. They were chanting something, just screaming. It was pretty intense.”
After playing in just 19 games that year, Myrow moved to Korea the first part of 2006, then joined the Boston Red Sox’s Class AA team for six weeks. He spend most of the next two years with the Padres’ AAA team in Portland, Ore., but appeared in 12 games in 2007 and 21 in 2008 for San Diego when he hit his lone career homer at Petco Park against the Florida Marlins.
“It was my first at-bat of 2008,” he recalled. “They were shopping Tony Clark because we were way out of it. Tony was getting ready to hit but then we scored a run and was told ‘Myrow go up and hit.’ He threw me about seven or eight fastballs and I finally caught up with one. It was pretty neat.”
Also neat was competing in the 2008 National League playoff game against the Colorado Rockies even though he struck out in his only at-bat.
Myrow played for the Chicago White Sox AAA affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., in 2009, then midway through the season was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and their Class AAA Indianapolis affiliate. He played in Indianapolis again in 2010, then went back in Winnipeg in 2011.
“I always kind of wanted to go back to Winnipeg,” he said. “I always enjoyed my time there. It’s a great little baseball city. The people are really nice. It’s good minor league baseball. I always wanted to go back and end my career there and thought I had but here I am three years later.”
Instead, he joined the AirHogs where he was second in the American Association in hitting in 2012 at .364 in 92 games with 12 homers and 63 runs batted in. A back injury requiring surgery limited him to 73 games last year with a .274 average, 4 HR and 34 RBI. Thinking his playing days were done, he took the hitting coach job.
Then several injuries put him back on the active roster in late June and since then, he’s hit .263 with two homers and 13 RBI mostly as the designated hitter.
Though he only played a short time in the big leagues and finished with just a .157 career average with one home run and four runs batted in, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
“For a long time it was just to show myself I could do it and be successful at a high level,” he said. “Then once I made it to the big leagues it was more about making money. I already did much more than was ever expected.”
Baseball has occupied enough of Myrow’s life that he hopes to make it a career. Though he’s coaching hitters now, his ultimate goal is to be a manager.
“It gets to the point where it’s all you know,” he said. “It’s hard to go out and find a job at 34, 35, 36 years old when you haven’t had a lot of experience. So there’s limited things in the work force you can do. And that had a lot to do with me being here the last few years not really wanting to get into certain areas like sales and stuff like that.”
And Myrow has no problems if he continues working at the current level.
“There’s a lot to it that gets lost sometimes whenever you’re in independent ball with a couple of coaches with different experience levels,” he said. “It’s a little different when you are in the minor leagues and you have 25 coaches there in spring training with an eye on everything. There’s a lot that’s lost in the game and a lot of teams in independent leagues that do it right put a lot of pressure on the teams that don’t do it so well.”
Being the father of young boys, Myrow is in no hurry to move beyond the AirHogs.
“With them in Little League once they are in high school, maybe college and they don’t care about Dad much any more maybe I’ll have more time to do what I want,” said Myrow, who lives in Saginaw. “Right now being around them is pretty important.
“It works out really well. It still drives me crazy going out on the road for those seven or eight days because I miss Little League games and stuff like that.”
Myrow likes that his kids can enjoy the same atmosphere around the other players on the field and in the clubhouse as he has for so long.
“I enjoy it a lot being able to stay with my kids, having them out here. They enjoy it,” he said. “They were upset when I was just coaching and not playing and when I started playing they got excited.”