Caleb, that was a fantastically-written article.
Enjoyed it greatly.
Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report (google)
Rockies' Analyst (google)
By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"The story of Jamie Moyer is the story of a guy that no one believed in," says Karen.
Sitting on a couch in that rental home a few days after the loss to the Giants, Moyer recalls the first time he can remember someone saying that he couldn't play baseball for a living. Moyer looks tired — in the past week alone, he's appeared on just about every morning show and evening newscast in existence — but it only takes him a second to remember the name. "Bill White," he says, snapping his fingers. Bill White: a former major-league first baseman, broadcaster for the New York Yankees and, as president of the National League in the early '90s, the highest-ranking African-American executive at the time in any sport. In high school, Moyer played basketball against one of White's sons. As he remembers it, before the game, White told his basketball coach that Moyer was too small to play in the majors, an opinion that the coach, for whatever reason, then shared with his player. "And I never forgot it," he says.
Moyer's ability to recognize, catalogue and retrieve past slights makes him not unlike every other successful professional athlete, a breed that sustains itself on umbrage. What makes Moyer different, though, is that, as an undersized, soft-throwing pitcher in a game that values the opposite, he's had more material than most to work with.
That's part of the reason he wasn't home that day when Billy Blitzer called. A few days before the draft, he'd asked a friend for a ride to a summer league that was five hours away. The friend balked. "He asked me, 'Why should I drive you all that way when you're just going to get drafted and have to come right back home?'" says Moyer before adding: "He mf'd me the whole way home." Despite Blitzer's assurances, Moyer wasn't entirely convinced he was going to be selected — because while he'd never doubted his own ability, he had grown used to doubting the ability of others to recognize it. And for the first decade of his career, he was justified in those doubts.
After three years with the Cubs, Moyer was traded to the Texas Rangers, who released him two years later. That same scenario played itself out twice more in the next two years — first with the St. Louis Cardinals, and then again with the Cubs, who were so convinced of Moyer's inability to be a major-league pitcher that they offered him an assistant pitching coach position in the low minors, an offer Moyer politely rejected. "It just didn't feel like the right time to quit going after my dream," he says.
The turning point in Moyer's career came in 1993. Karen had just delivered their first kid and was pregnant with their second. They had recently built their dream home not far from Notre Dame, but Moyer had only made $12,000 the year before pitching in the minors for the Detroit Tigers. "Things were starting to get a little dicey," he says. "Karen had taken a part-time job working retail so we could buy groceries. We were six months away from putting the house up for sale." Signed by the Baltimore Orioles, Moyer started his year at the team's Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, New York, where one of the first things he and Karen saw was a daylight shootout between police officers and a robbery suspect. "Rochester was rough," he says. "She was saying 'Go! Go!' and I was wanting to watch it."
By then Moyer had already pitched in the majors for ten years and was a known quantity. Or, as he puts it, "I wasn't a prospect, I was a suspect — someone they didn't trust." Yet that time spent as a journeyman had also given him the chance to do something he does as well as anyone in the league: collect data. "When you're in the big leagues, you have access to all the knowledge and all the info in the world," says Aaron Sele, a good friend who pitched with Moyer in Boston and Seattle. "That doesn't mean people are going to digest it. But Jamie devours it."
From a pitching coach early in his career, Moyer had learned the trick of putting a smooth rock under his left heel when he was warming up, to ensure that he was balanced on the toe of his plant foot. "That's still one of the first things I do in spring training," he says. "Go find a rock." From a Cubs teammate he saw writing down notes after every at-bat, Moyer learned the art of tracking each batter he faced. An iPad he uses today is pre-loaded with thousands of at-bats. "He's one of the only starters who asks us to do this," says the Rockies' video guy. From his agent, he took the suggestion to visit Harvey Dorfman, co-author of The Mental Game of Baseball and the game's most influential sports psychologist. "The best $2,300 I ever spent," he says. And from a fellow left-handed pitcher, Moyer learned the cut fastball, a pitch that breaks in on right-handed batters and acts as the perfect complement to the tailing-away change-up he'd become known for — a pitch that fools hitters by looking like a fastball but arriving at the plate slower. In Moyer's case, sometimes much, much slower.