Jamie, Dillon Moyer working toward dreams
The phone rings every day at about the same time. It’s a call Dillon Moyer has come to expect, mostly because he and his dad have made it part of their daily routines.
The conversations are pretty typical stuff, but they’re also unique to Moyer and his father.
“I ask him how he’s doing, he asks me how I’m doing,” Dillon said. “We talk about life, baseball, whatever.”
They have a lot in common. Dillon is a sophomore infielder for the UC Irvine baseball team. His father, 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, will start on Saturday night vs. the Astros - as the No. 2 starter for the Rockies - making the club after missing last season because of an injury to his pitching elbow.
Incredible? It’s beyond that.
Satchel Paige was 59 years old when he pitched three scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. Jack Quinn was 50 when he stepped on the mound in 1933 for the Cincinnati Reds. But neither won a game in his final season.
If Moyer could become the oldest pitcher in big league history to win a regular season game.
“We’re all amazed at him,” Dillon said. “We worked out with him this fall and over the Christmas break, and he was out there with us doing all the stuff, running and stretching. Obviously, he can’t keep up with us because he’s older now.”
Zing! Dillon, who turns 21 in July, likes taking humorous jabs at his father -- like when he’s asked why he didn’t follow in Jamie’s footsteps and become a pitcher. The elder Moyer, a left-hander, has survived 24 seasons and won 267 games despite never possessing an overpowering fastball.
“I guess I wasn’t blessed with the genes to throw very hard,” Dillon said. “So that didn’t work out in my favor.”
At Irvine, Dillon is a talented infielder with skills to advance to the professional level, said his coach, Mike Gillespie. What he lacks so far is offense.
“He runs well, very well, and he has a major league arm,” Gillespie said. “He has the potential to have a major league glove. Professional scouts would grade out those three tools with average major league numbers. The obvious issue is that he’s struggled at the plate.”
In 20 games, including 15 starts, Moyer is hitting .240. He acknowledged that his slow start is partially the result of not enough at-bats (he’s 10 for 50, both doubles) and some mechanical issues he’s trying to work through.
Moyer, whose grandfather is former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps, was drafted in the 22nd round by the Minnesota Twins in 2010, so scouts have already seen his potential. Because he turns 21 this summer, he’s eligible to be drafted again, but he’s undecided whether to sign if he’s picked.
“I’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “One of the reasons I came here was to get my degree. It would have to be enough (money) to take me away from that, and I don’t know what that number would be right now.”
If he’s learned anything from his father, it’s perseverance and patience. Jamie Moyer has pitched for seven teams (the Rockies will be his eighth), been traded three times and released three times. He won 21 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2002 and won a World Series ring with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
He missed all of last season after suffering an injury to his left elbow with the Phillies in 2010 and undergoing Tommy John surgery. Most pitchers would figure it was time to retire after more than two decades in the game.
But Moyer, who made his big league debut with the Chicago Cubs on June 16, 1986, against Phillies lefty Steve Carlton, rededicated himself.
“There was no doubt” Jamie would make a comeback, Dillon said. “Ever since he had the surgery, that was his goal, to come back. We knew with his work ethic and his desire to keep playing, he would make it back.”
Saturday will be Moyer’s first start after almost 18 months, and it seemed apropos that he wore No. 50 on his jersey. That’s how old he’ll be on Nov. 18.
Dillon Moyer said his father had a chance to watch many of his games at Irvine last season and sat in the stands for the NCAA super regional in Virginia.
“That was the first time he could really watch me play because in my high school years he was always in spring training or playing during the season,” Dillon said.
This time, Dillon was able to relish the fact his father was there. Pressure? There was none.
“I don’t feel any pressure at all when he’s watching,” he said. “I think it’s cool for him to watch me grow. I know his whistle. Back in high school, he would give me a little whistle and tell me to step left or step right. Or I could hear him say, ‘Hit the fastball’ or something like that.”
In a sense, both are working toward their dreams -- Jamie to make a comeback, Dillon to reach the majors. And what if it happened next season, when Jamie Moyer was 50 years old?
They don’t talk about it much, but when they do, it’s usually in jest.
“We’re both competitive,” Dillon said. “He says he’d strike me out. I say I’ll get a hit off him. We’ll see what happens. It would be pretty amazing if it does.”
It’s amazing already.