As Mike Mayers prepared to head to spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-handed pitcher made a stop at a key destination along his journey to the major leagues.
Mayers, a 2010 graduate of Grove City High School, returned to his alma mater Jan. 30 to meet with Greyhounds baseball coach Ryan Alexander and also get in some throwing before departing Friday, Feb. 9, for Jupiter, Florida.
Mayers begins spring training Feb. 14, as pitchers and catchers are the first players to report.
With his father, Mark, and Alexander looking on, Mayers' pitches reached 96 mph.
"It's a huge advantage for me to always have these facilities available," Mayers said. "The one that separates the Grove City program from other programs is how much (Alexander) cares, and as I've gotten older I've realized how rare that is."
Mayers worked out with Greyhounds players who were taking advantage of the voluntary winter session.
"It's awesome for our kids to get to see Mike come back and work and show how hard he works out every day," said Alexander, who is preparing for his 10th season leading the Greyhounds. "The No. 1 thing that has made Mike what he is today is how hard he works and our guys get a firsthand chance to see it."
While in Grove City, Mayers also gave pitching lessons at Mojo Player Factory, an indoor training facility.
After stints with the Cardinals the past two seasons, the 26-year-old Mayers is hoping to begin this season in the majors.
St. Louis has indicated that Mayers, who has been a starter for most of his career, could contribute out of the bullpen in 2018.
"It's too early to tell, but I'll either be in (Triple-A) Memphis or St. Louis," Mayers said. "They view me as a reliever. I want to pitch in the big leagues. I've started the majority of my career. Last year I got a taste of the bullpen and I became more familiar with that. If I'm pitching in the big leagues, I don't care if it's out of the bullpen or as a starter."
Mayers was the Cardinals' third-round pick (93rd overall) in the 2013 draft after pitching three seasons for the University of Mississippi. He has one semester remaining to graduate and said he eventually will earn his degree.
"You always dream about (reaching the major leagues)," Mayers said. "In high school the dream was to play Division I baseball and have a successful college career. My sophomore year (in college) is when I realized I was going to get drafted and so you continue to work, (because) you want to be drafted as high as possible."
Mayers' minor league career has included being named the Cardinals' Pitcher of the Month in June of last season.
With friends and family in attendance, Mayers made his major league debut July 24, 2016, pitching 1 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game the Cardinals lost 9-6.
Alexander was in attendance for Mayers' first major league win, a 9-7 victory at Pittsburgh on Sept. 6, 2016.
Mayers pitched in seven games for the Cardinals over the past two seasons, but is hoping to have a more prominent role this year. He has battled adversity during his professional career, including undergoing surgery in 2015 for thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve condition that leaves a pitcher's hands feeling numb and involves the removal of a rib.
Mayers was a standout baseball, basketball and football player at Grove City, earning numerous postseason awards in each sport.
As a senior on the baseball team, he went 4-2 with a 3.80 ERA and was named first-team all-district and all-league, as the Greyhounds finished 21-6 and won the OCC-Ohio Division title.
As a junior, Mayers went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 54 innings and was first-team all-league, all-district and all-state.
"Mike is looking to have a big spring training up with the big club when he gets down there," Alexander said. "The Cardinals want him to stay as a reliever right now, so I think they have expectations of him being up there soon."