On the day a player signs his first professional baseball contract, he programs his personal GPS with one destination - the major leagues.
Playing in the minor leagues is nice, and it sure beats working for a living, but no one wants to stay there, and no one wants to go back after he has earned his way to that place that fictional baseball legend Crash Davis called "The Show."
So how, then, did the Phillies do it? How did they persuade the ordinarily cocky Brett Myers, his confidence eroded by nine losses and a 5.84 ERA in 17 starts, to waive the veto rights he had earned over five major-league seasons and accept a demotion to triple-A Lehigh Valley to work through his pitching problems in a low-key environment?
It was a group effort that included two top Phillies front-office officials, the two most important members of the field staff, the pitcher and his agent.
It required more than a dozen phone calls and face-to-face conversations in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
And it all started - well, sort of - with a trip to the bathroom at 3 a.m. Monday.
"I'm 70 years old," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said with an honest, what-do-you-want-from-me shrug. "I get up to go to the washroom once a night. When I do, I check to see if I have any voice mails."
In the wee hours of Monday morning, Gillick did have a message on his cell phone. It was from assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who had phoned only an hour earlier to tell his boss that he had just received a voice-mail message from Myers' agent, Craig Landis, who was at home in California.
Hours earlier, Landis had made the first of several calls in this 36-hour drama. It's not unusual for agents to call general managers and check up on their clients. Landis was moved to do it on a weekend because he was concerned about Myers, who had not made it out of the third inning Friday night in Texas.
"It was a very casual phone call," said Landis, who has a long relationship with Amaro dating to their undergraduate days at Stanford. "I was just checking in. I could sense [team officials] were getting frustrated. I wanted to see how Brett's spirits were, what I could do to help.
"Brett, I and the Phillies all have one thing in common: We want to figure out what he's not doing right so he can be a top pitcher again and the Phillies can win the [National League] East. To that extent, we're on the same side."
During their conversation Sunday night, Amaro told Landis that he believed Myers might benefit by going to the minors for a few starts.
"He has five years in the majors," Landis told Amaro. "You can't do that."
"I know," Amaro said. "But would you consider it?"
Most agents would have crawled through the phone, waving a copy of the Basic Agreement, to say "No way" to Amaro's face.
Landis did not.
"We use the rules of the Basic Agreement when it's necessary," Landis said. "But sometimes, common sense has to be involved and you have to look beyond the rules and do what's best for the player to make him a better player."
This might be one of those cases, Landis thought to himself as he spoke with Amaro on Sunday night.
It was about 9 p.m. when Landis and Amaro ended their phone call. Landis told Amaro that he would need time to think about the Phillies' proposal, and that he would get back to him. Amaro, who had spent the day at a soccer tournament with his daughter, dozed off. At 2 a.m., he woke up and saw that he had a voice mail from Landis.
"The decision has to be Brett's," Landis' voice message said. "But I won't stand in your way if you want to approach him about going to triple A."
Amaro immediately left a phone message for Gillick, who got it on his way to the bathroom in his Center City residence.
Project Remedy was under way, and Gillick credited Amaro and Landis for facilitating it.
The two men have much in common. Both are level-headed Stanford grads. Both are former professional baseball players - Amaro reached the majors and Landis triple A - and the sons of former major-leaguers. Ruben Amaro Sr., an infielder, and Jim Landis, an outfielder, played in the majors in the 1950s and 1960s.
When Amaro, 43, mentioned sending Myers to the minors - with no change in his $8.5 million salary - Landis, the former player, was able to read his motives. Some agents would not have been as understanding.
"I'm not as radical," said the 49-year-old Landis, a former outfielder who was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1977, then went on to play football at Stanford in the mid-80s. "My dad played 10 years in the big leagues. I made it to triple A. I've been around. I come at it from a player's side."
Monday morning, barely five hours after Gillick got up "to go to the washroom," he and Amaro arrived at the Phillies' executive offices at Citizens Bank Park. Gillick teased Amaro about having left a voice mail at 2 a.m.
"Were you just getting in?" a chuckling Gillick asked Amaro.
They turned serious and huddled in Gillick's spacious corner office, overlooking Pattison Avenue, with a sweeping view of hulking Lincoln Financial Field in the distance.
Gillick picked up the phone and called manager Charlie Manuel at the Westin Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta, where the Phillies were spending an off day after losing, in Texas, for the ninth time in 11 games. Managers and GMs talk daily, although not often about sending their opening-day starter to the minors.
Manuel knew something had to be done with Myers, whose confidence was in tatters. He knew he could not send the pitcher to the mound for his next start. That much became clear Saturday, the day after Myers' difficult outing in Texas. The pitcher had met with Manuel in the visiting manager's office at Rangers Ballpark. He was demoralized and downcast, his frustration palpable.
"It's not like I'm trying to be terrible," the 27-year-old pitcher told his manager. "I'm working hard to be the best I can be, but nothing's working. It's killing me."
In his hotel room in Atlanta, Manuel spoke with Gillick and Amaro, who were on speakerphone back in Philadelphia. Gillick and Amaro told Manuel that it was time for the organization to propose to Myers the idea of going to the minors to try to fix his problems, which were both mental and physical, far away from the pressure of a pennant race.
Manuel agreed. He would be the one who would broach the topic with the pitcher.
The manager is always one of the people who speak with players when they are involved in transactions. In this case, Manuel was especially ideal because he and Myers have a bond. Both are plain-talking Southerners with little pretense. Myers has a deep trust in Manuel.
Manuel wanted pitching coach Rich Dubee to be part of the meeting. Dubee, taking advantage of the off day in Atlanta, had scheduled a round of golf and would not be back at the hotel until the afternoon.
At 12:30, Frank Coppenbarger, the team's director of travel, called Myers and asked the pitcher if he could stop by Manuel's hotel suite for a 5 p.m. meeting. Myers said he would be there.
Manuel did not waste any time.
"We'd like you to go triple A," he told Myers, matter-of-factly.
Myers had known something was coming. He figured his turn in the rotation might be skipped, or he would be sent to the bullpen.
"We'd like you to go to triple A."
Myers was shocked.
The meeting lasted only 10 minutes, but Myers needed all night to decide if he would accept the team's plan.
Back in his room, Myers spoke with his wife, Kim, who had accompanied him on the trip, as she frequently does. Myers phoned Landis, who has represented him since the righthander was an 18-year-old just out of high school, and told him of the Phillies' proposal.
"I told him he should consider it," said Landis, fully expecting the call. "I told him at this point, we should consider anything that might help.
"I said, 'You're a good pitcher who has lost his way. What can we do to get you back on track?' I said, 'You know, it might be good - less pressure, work things out, build some confidence, different eyes can see you, fresh perspective.' "
Myers agreed with Landis, but he still had concerns. If he stayed in the minors more than 20 days - a possibility because he has to earn his way back to the majors by pitching well, Amaro said - he could lose service time that could ultimately affect benefits such as his pension. (By terms of the Basic Agreement, a player who is optioned to the minors for fewer than 20 days does not lose service time.)
Landis reasoned those concerns away.
"That was a significant issue, but not significant enough to say no," Landis said. "Brett will make a lot of money if he pitches well. But first he has to get to pitching well, and if he gets to pitching well, he'll have plenty of service time.
"The goal is being a good pitcher again. That outweighs anything."
Throughout the night Monday, Myers spoke with family members. He phoned his father, Phil, in Jacksonville, Fla. He spoke with his wife.
The couple have two young children, and Myers was concerned about leaving them for a month. (That was the length of the minor-league stint that the Phillies first proposed.)
Late Monday night, Myers decided he would agree to the assignment if the Phillies would consider bringing him back after three starts, provided he was ready. He also wanted some family provisions. For instance, on days he was not pitching for the triple-A club in Allentown, he wanted the freedom to do his work early in the day and be able to return home to Delaware County after five innings. That's how pitchers do it in spring training on days they are not scheduled to pitch.
Tuesday morning, Myers awoke in Atlanta. He spoke with Gillick and Amaro over the phone and Manuel separately. They went for his plan; he went for theirs. He would leave the place all players want to be - The Show - so that he could try to fix his problems, rebuild his confidence, and help the Phillies in the second half.
After informing club officials of his decision, Myers spoke with Coppenbarger. Myers had taken his family and the children's baby-sitter on the trip. No problem, Coppenbarger said. He booked flights for a party of five. And although players usually pay for their family's travel, these flights were courtesy of the Phillies. Myers left Atlanta about 7 Tuesday night and landed in Philadelphia just after 9.
He was home by 10:30. Long after everyone went to bed, Myers played video games until late into the night. The next day - yesterday - would bring a return to the minors and the first day of the rest of this baseball life. At least he hoped that.
"I'm doing this for my teammates, for the organization and for myself because I want to be a good pitcher again," said Myers, who has had trouble readjusting to a starter's role after being a closer last season. "The Phillies did nothing wrong asking me to go to the minors. In fact, they've shown me and my family a lot of class."
Yesterday morning, Gillick and Amaro sat with a reporter in the general manager's office and spoke about the decision to demote Myers.
They spoke about how they had to be careful to not wound Myers' confidence any more than it already was.
They spoke about how the game is played by real people who have feelings, not well-muscled robots in pinstriped uniforms.
"Outside people think all we do is sit up here and dream up trades," Gillick said. "They think anyone can be a GM. I can be a fan and sit in the stands and dream up trades I'd like to make, etc. But so many other details are involved in the job. It's more than trades."
"You're dealing with personalities and people," Amaro said. "People forget that."
Gillick said he was eager to see if Myers would benefit by working with triple-A pitching coach Rod Nichols, whom the pitcher holds in high regard. The two were together when Myers was a young minor-leaguer.
Sitting at his desk, Gillick reached for a Toronto Blue Jays media guide. He looked up Roy Halladay and read how the pitcher, after extended time in the big leagues, went to the minors in 2001 and rebuilt his delivery. He came back later that season, won a Cy Young Award in 2003, and has made four all-star teams.
"We're trying to win this thing and we need Brett to do it," Gillick said. "We think this is the best way to get him back on track."
Amaro, who along with the agent Landis facilitated Project Remedy, said there was no guarantee this would work.
But it's worth a try.
"You have to give the guy kudos for recognizing his problem," Amaro said. "You can have a .300 hitter who's hitting .220 and he doesn't recognize he needs to make adjustments.
"Brett's addressing his problems and trying to get better. You have to respect that."