PORTLAND, Maine — The Mayer family received some great news last week.
It was an anticipated step for the Red Sox’ top prospect, but one taken well ahead of schedule for the 20-year-old shortstop.
The one complication? His parents, Enrique and Myriam, had already flown from San Diego to Greenville, S.C., to watch their son play. Instead of settling in for a week-plus of games with the Drive, the Mayers needed to make a trek up to Somerset, N.J., to join the Sea Dogs on the road.
“Packed all my stuff that night,” Mayer said. “And then around 11 in the morning, drove 14 hours to Somerset. Thankfully my dad was with me. So he drove most of the way.”
Such is the life of a young prospect looking to carve a path to the big leagues.
Since spring training wrapped up in March, the odometer in Mayer’s car has been about as busy as its owner — going from Florida to South Carolina, to New Jersey, and now to Maine.
And though Mayer’s ultimate goal is to anchor the Red Sox infield at Fenway Park, MLB.com’s fifth-ranked prospect isn’t looking past his latest stop.
“I’ve seen no reason for this kid to change who he is and how he goes about things,” Sea Dogs manager Chad Epperson said. “We have such a good support system on and off field. He’s so focused on what he’s doing. I overheard him say, ‘I’m not worried about Boston, I’m in Portland right now and this is where I need to be.’ ”
And on Tuesday night, Mayer made a solid first impression in front of a new set of fans at Hadlock Field.
His stat line did not pop off the box score following Portland’s 6-2 win over the Akron RubberDucks, as he went 0 for 3. But Mayer drove in a run in the bottom of the third with a sacrifice fly before driving the ball to deep center for another out in the fifth. As the relay man, he also assisted in cutting down Akron’s Petey Halpin trying to stretch out a triple in the fifth.
And on Wednesday night, Mayer came back with a 2-for-4 performance and a home run.
“His numbers are going to take care of themselves because he’s that good of a ballplayer,” Epperson said. “His IQ of baseball is off the charts as well. He’s really intelligent.”
It doesn’t take long to see why the Sox were over the moon when Mayer fell to them with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Projected as a five-tool player, Mayer has the bat speed and smooth swing to drive the ball with ease, even with just two years of pro ball under his belt. In his last month at Greenville, Mayer batted .321 with 7 doubles and 6 home runs.
Even at 6 feet 2 inches and 188 pounds, Mayer’s defensive game is fluid. The Chula Vista, Calif., native can cover ground in a hurry, gobbling up potential singles. He reeled off a nifty double play Tuesday with second baseman (and fellow top prospect) Nick Yorke. His speed may not be elite, but he has already swiped three bases in just six games with Portland.
But for Epperson, Mayer’s most impressive attribute lies in his ability and willingness to adjust and learn in short order, rather than rely on his high-end talent to lift him out of a lull.
Having turned 20 on Dec. 12, Mayer is the youngest Red Sox draftee to get called up to Double A since Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo in 2010.
After opening his Double A career with an 0-for-16 stretch in Somerset, Mayer rebounded with a 3-for-4 showing with a double and two RBIs last Sunday.
“The guy’s got exceptional tools,” Epperson said. “And he’s shown it. I mean, he made some really, really good plays. And he made some really hard plays look easy.
“He’s fun to watch. Everybody knows who he is, right? So they’re going to pitch to him a little — they’re going to bring their A game every time he steps in the box.”
For a blue-chip talent who was playing high school ball just two years ago, Mayer has plenty of pressure on his shoulders.
The Red Sox aren’t expecting their prized prospect to punch his ticket to the show in 2023. And Mayer isn’t looking too far ahead. For now, he’s keeping his feet grounded in his new home. His to-do list is simple, and far from sweeping.
His first task up in Maine? Find a dependable seafood spot in the Old Port neighborhood. The Highroller Lobster Co. is the early favorite.
“We went downtown, ate some lobster rolls that were pretty fire,” Mayer said of his first evening in Portland. “Good first impression. … I actually had one in Boston when I went to sign and I didn’t like it. So I was skeptical about trying it again. But thankfully, I liked this, so now I have a good spot to go.”
Next on the list? Get better — one at-bat at a time.
“He’s got a real tremendous understanding of who he is,” said Epperson. “I don’t think he’s thinking about Fenway Park or Worcester right now. I think he’s thinking about what he’s got to do today to prepare for this game. And I honestly believe that’s the way he goes about it.”
Conor Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.