When you think of a 49 year old man, certain things come to mind: Mid-life crises’, awkwardly flashy sports cars, expandable waste bands, hybrid bicycles, leisurely rounds of golf. Probably the last thing anyone would associate with a 49 year old man is professional athlete. On April 18th, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a Major League Baseball in a 5-3 Rockies win over the San Diego Padres. Six of the Padres players he beat that day were not even born when Moyer started his professional career. It is refreshing to know that it’s not downhill from 30 after all.
A career spanning 27 years and eight different teams (including a three year stint with the Texas Rangers from 1989-1991), one would think that needing Tommy John surgery at the end of last season would have been a reasonable time to retire. But to the surprise of many, Moyer tried out and made the Colorado Rockies spring squad. Moyer is quoted saying, “It was my choice to come back. I didn’t want to come to spring training to be a dog-and-pony show. For me, it was, ‘I’m here to compete for a job and see what I could do.’” At a certain age, you stop caring about what people might say or think about you. Obviously Moyer didn’t return for the 2012 for the money or breaking the record of being the older pitcher to win a game. This kind of self motivation and pride come from deep within, and we are all lucky to be witness to it.
While his fast-ball has topped out at underwhelming 78 miles-per-hour this season, Moyer has never been an over-powering pitcher. All pitchers who have long careers learn that speed isn’t everything. Pitching is a game of chess with every batter. With supreme control and wily tricks that only come with age, many pitchers have late career success. The best season of his career was in 2003 pitching for the Seattle Mariners with 21 wins and an ERA of 3.21. Not many athletes or even baseball players have their best season 13 years into careers. Knowing this, it’s less surprising that he is still pitching…wait, no its not. The guy is 49!
Other timeless wonders who come to mind are Kenny Rogers, Charlie Hough, Julio Franco, and Nolan Ryan. Is my Texas Rangers fandom skewing my perception, or is Arlington perhaps the fountain of youth? It is stories like Jamie Moyer’s inner drive and love of the game that make baseball such a special sport. There is no other American sport where players can compete against guys half their age. Father time catches everyone eventually, but for now Moyer is one step ahead.