Next month Jamie Moyer turns 45, the prime of life in most occupations, but about 75 in baseball years. And next spring Moyer will rejoin...
Next month Jamie Moyer turns 45, the prime of life in most occupations, but about 75 in baseball years.
And next spring Moyer will rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation and begin his 25th season in professional baseball.
His longevity is a remarkable tribute to preparation, to understanding the science of pitching and to the ability to listen to all the mentors who have steered him through the inevitable perils of his profession.
A significant part of him wonders just how much longer he can play this game, how much longer he can fool hitters half his age, how far he can push his sports’ athletic envelope.
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“I am curious,” Moyer said last week, sitting in a conference room at the Moyer Foundation in Magnolia. “As of today, I have my health. I got through a healthy season. I still feel I can compete. I know I can still play the game. …
“At some point, maybe it’s next year, maybe it’s two years down the road, I’ll go out on the field and I just can’t do it. But if I can and right now I know that I can, why not? Just because somebody says you’re too old? Or your birth certificate says you’re a certain age?”
On a staff that suffered an epidemic of arm problems, Moyer took the ball every fifth day. Pitching in his hometown, he threw 199-1/3 innings and won 14 games for the National League East-winning Phillies.
“I don’t do it any differently now than I did five years ago, 10 years ago,” said Moyer, who has 230 big-league wins. “I don’t think I throw any slower. It’s all about location for me. And if I have my health and I believe I can still compete, why can’t I keep pitching?”
Moyer will be part of an eclectic, all-star rotation of 10 speakers Friday at the Washington State Mentors annual “Conversations on Mentoring” at Qwest Field, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Moyer’s first mentors were his parents, Joan and Jim, from the blue-collar town of Sellersville, an hour outside of Philadelphia. They taught him his work ethic. His family owned a dry-cleaning business and he went on pickups and deliveries with his father.
Later his father worked for a glass company. He still works part time there and his mother worked in neighborhood businesses, including the bakery of a family-owned grocery store.
In a volatile profession, Moyer learned the secret to stability.
“There was a lot of consistency to my family,” Moyer said. “There’s a calmness to my parents. In some way or shape, I’ve always had the values that I was raised with somewhere in my mind.”
In 1993, when Moyer was returned to the minor leagues for the third time, this time by the Baltimore Orioles, pitching instructor Steve Luebber, another of the mentors Moyer fondly remembers, handed him a notebook with questions in it and spaces to write answers.
“He was asking us to ask questions of ourselves on a daily basis and keep the answers in a notebook,” Moyer said. “I learned that way. It’s kind of a self-check. It’s part of being accountable for who you are and what you do.”
While being respectful to Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, Moyer passes on all that he has learned to his teammates.
One of his prized pupils this season was 23-year-old rookie starter Kyle Kendrick, from Mount Vernon, who joined the rotation at midseason and started the second game of the National League Division Series against Colorado.
Like a second father, he nagged the young pitcher into eating a big breakfast every day. And like a pitching coach, Moyer showed Kendrick how to keep a notebook.
Mentoring is second nature to Moyer.
In 2000, Jamie and his wife, Karen, established the Moyer Foundation, which in its mission statement says it “offers encouragement, confidence and support to children and families enduring a time of profound distress.”
“It has allowed me to keep my life and my job in perspective,” he said. “Whether you go out and win 20 games, or you make the playoffs, or you finish in last place, the work of the foundation still goes on.
“There still are children out there who are in distress. There are families out there that need help. There’s illness. Yeah, baseball’s important. Baseball’s huge. It’s a great stage to be on, but that’s not going to last forever.”
Here’s hoping Moyer continues pushing the pitching envelope. That he still can tease home-run hitters into his late 40s. Who knows, maybe he can pitch into his 50s, while he continues mentoring kids, in and out of baseball, from one side of the continent to the other.