When Jamie Moyer joined the Seattle Mariners before the 1996 season, he was just a beer-drinking, soft-tossing lefty. He is still a soft-tossing lefty, but he has traded beer for wine after teammates began ordering bottles for the table at dinner.
"At first I was like nah, that's not me," says Moyer. "But after I tried it I really started to acquire a taste for it and it's become a hobby of mine." Moyer converted the basement of his 19th century Seattle home into a wine cellar and when he has spare time on road trips, he'll find a wine shop and pick the staff's brains for new brands to try.
That ability to adapt has helped Moyer pitch 22 seasons in the big leagues, making him the game's longest-tenured player, and at age 45, the oldest. But he is a long way from retiring to his wine cellar. In fact, Moyer's 16-7 record and 3.71 ERA represented his best season since his career year in 2003, when he won 21 games for the Mariners.
While he has struggled in the postseason, going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA, Moyer will nevertheless be on the mound for the pivotal Game 3, his first World Series appearance.
Once there, Moyer will have the comfort of pitching in not only his home ballpark but his hometown as well. He grew up Souderton, Penn., an hour north of Philadelphia, and skipped school one autumn day in 1980 to attend the team's first --and thus far only -- World Series victory parade. His father, Jim, coached him from ages eight to 18 and instilled a love for the game that has followed Moyer into middle age. "He just allowed it to be fun," says Moyer. "I think that's why I still enjoy it so much now."
Moyer stayed in Philly to attend St. Joseph's University before being selected in the sixth round of the 1984 draft by the Cubs, with whom he made his major league debut in 1986. In Chicago, he was introduced to an intern at WGN TV, Karen Phelps, the daughter of then-Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps. Cubs announcers Harry Caray and Steve Stone thought they would make a cute couple so they introduced the two on her last day of work before she had to head back to school for her senior year at Notre Dame. They married in 1988 and have seven kids. "I think we're done," says Moyer. "But I've said that before." In addition to their six biological children, they adopted Yennifer, now 2, from Guatemala after Moyer's oldest son, Dillon, went on a missionary trip there with Karen and they saw her in an orphanage.
Besides providing for his own brood, Moyer founded the Jamie Moyer Foundation in 2000 and has since raised more than $15 million for distressed children around the country. Moyer says he picked this cause after meeting a girl in a Seattle area hospital named Erin Metcalf who developed liver cancer at age 15. "She got another liver and she was doing fine but a couple of months later she complained of back pain," says Moyer. "It had spread to her spine and there was nothing they could do. One of her last wishes was for Karen and I to continue to work with children." So the Moyers' followed through on Metcalf's wish by creating 18 Camp Erin bereavement camps across the country with another 12 set to open in 2009. Research shows that ninety percent of children will lose a loved one by the time the graduate high school which puts them at a greater risk for depression and substance abuse. "We just feel that they shouldn't grieve alone," says Moyer.
MLB recognized his charitable efforts in 2003 by honoring him with the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who combines outstanding baseball skills with devoted work in the community. This year's winner will be announced before Game 3 of the World Series, right before Moyer takes the mound to oppose Tampa Bay's 24-year-old righty Matt Garza. It will be only the latest effort by Moyer to prove that age is just a number. After all, he knows a thing or two about preservation and that sometimes pitchers, like the fine wines that have become his hobby, get better with age.