When Blitzer first saw Moyer, he was impressed, but not for the conventional reasons a scout might be impressed by a college pitcher. Scouts had only recently begun using radar guns, and already the effect was noticeable. "You always looked for someone who threw hard, but before the radar gun, you never knew how hard," says Blitzer. "Once it came around, you no longer had to guess." That day in York, Blitzer had his radar gun — and the numbers it generated when Moyer pitched were far from extraordinary. "He couldn't break a pane of glass," Blitzer recalls.

But Moyer had an ability that was rare in such a young player: the ability to pitch rather than just throw. "In high school, a lot of hard-throwers can get guys out with their fastball because no one can catch up to it," Blitzer explains. "As they get older and the competition gets better, just throwing hard stops working. Jamie never had that velocity in his arsenal, so he had to learn how to pitch at a much younger age."

What Blitzer meant by "pitch," he summed up in the laudatory report he sent to his bosses at the Cubs. Moyer, he wrote, "kept hitters off balance," "mixed his pitches," "varied locations" and "changed speeds." He may not have been able to throw the ball past someone who knew what was coming, but Moyer had something even more valuable: a talent for keeping the hitter from knowing not only what was coming, but also how fast it was coming. "Jamie's always said the same thing," says Blitzer. "He wants to disrupt a hitter's timing."

The next season, in his junior year, Moyer did everything he could to validate the faith Blitzer had placed in him by setting school records for wins, strikeouts and ERA. Yet despite the accomplishments, only one other team was interested in Moyer: Moyer's favorite, the Phillies. "I still thought it was going to come down to one of the two of us," Blitzer says.

On the day of the draft, Blitzer left his home in Brooklyn and headed south. The Cubs had the third overall pick, which they were hoping to use on a "can't-miss" high-school outfielder named Shawn Abner from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. (Says Blitzer: "He missed.") But somewhere between New York and a pay phone off I-95 in New Jersey, the New York Mets, who had the first overall pick, selected Abner. One hundred thirty-four picks later, the Cubs took Moyer. And so it was that Blitzer drove back home, dialed Moyer's house and discovered his own mystery: The newest Chicago Cub, a kid who, like so many others, had dreamed his whole life of the day he would be drafted, wasn't there to take the call.

*****

It isn't just that the center fielder drops the ball. It's that everyone in the stadium hears him call for it first.

It's the top of the sixth inning, and the Colorado Rockies are playing the same way they've played in all of this season's early games — which is to say, like a team indifferent to winning. In Moyer's first start of the year, the Rockies lost to the Houston Astros, a team widely considered to be one of the worst in the league, and had as many runs scored (three) as errors committed, leading Moyer's father to say that the whole team "looked like Little Leaguers out there." This game against the Giants appears to be a repeat of the first, albeit with its own particular humiliations.

Those include the fact that, thus far, the Rockies have yet to record a hit. The Giants have managed two runs on five hits, but very few of them have been hit hard. And Moyer still looks strong when he throws his third pitch of the inning, one that the Giants' second baseman turns into a routine fly ball that center fielder Dexter Fowler calls for loudly enough to be heard clearly in the press box — "I got it!" — before dropping.

The crowd groans. Moyer stands with his hands on his knees like a father waiting patiently for a newborn to crawl to him. Or maybe he just looks that way because he has eight children.

In the stands, Karen, Moyer's wife of 24 years and mother of those eight children, answers her phone. On the other end is her father, Digger Phelps, the ex-men's basketball coach at Notre Dame and an ESPN analyst famous for always holding a colored highlighter that matches his tie. "Did you see it?" she asks. "Uh-huh.... Has there ever been a trade in April? I don't know.... We should go to Texas. Some place where they'll score runs for him. If you only give up two runs in Coors Field, you should win."

Around Karen are more than a dozen people who have flown out for the game, all part of Team Moyer. There's Larry Platt, the editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and co-author of Moyer's upcoming memoir; Moyer's parents; his sister, Jill; and two members of the Moyer Foundation, the philanthropic group that Jamie and Karen founded in 2000 that funds camps around the country for children dealing with the loss of a parent, or one with substance-abuse problems. Also present are six of his kids, including the two daughters he and Karen recently adopted from Guatemala, and the family's realtor, who helped the Moyers find the $1.8 million home in Cherry Creek that they're renting while he plays for the Rockies.

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3 comments
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TruthHonorCourage
TruthHonorCourage

Caleb, that was a fantastically-written article.

Enjoyed it greatly.

Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report (google)

Rockies' Analyst (google)

Lisa
Lisa

Great article. Go Jamie!!!!! You are an inspiration!

Go the Distance
Go the Distance

Good story and thanks for writing it. I love this guy. Perseverance is is a powerful thing.

 
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