Keeping Score

Inside the Mind Of Jamie Moyer, Baseball’s Ageless Wonder

Jamie Moyer, 49, is trying to catch on with the Colorado Rockies. He explains the secrets of his longevity

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Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Colorado Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer listens to the national anthem before a spring training baseball game on March 15, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Pitcher Jamie Moyer, 49, is in camp with the Colorado Rockies, trying to make a major league team for a 25th season. Moyer, who was a rookie back in 1986 with the Chicago Cubs, is trying to become the oldest player in major league history to win a game. The junk-baller, who last pitched in the majors in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies before an elbow sidelined him, spoke to Keeping Score from Scottsdale, Ariz, late last week.

Why are you still at this? 

Why not? I played through my 47th year [in 2010], and felt like I was contributing.  I ended up 9-9 that season before I got hurt. I had surgery, rehabbed, and felt pretty good. I prepared myself for spring training, and here I sit.

Do you feel any different at 49 than you did at, say, 35?

Not really. I feel pretty good. It’s only spring training. But, you know, I threw four [perfect] innings [on Thursday night], and feel pretty good today [Friday]. To me that’s a pretty good sign.

You’ve never been a hard thrower. Do you think that has helped your longevity?  

It’s still a lot of wear rand tear. Your body is not made to throw like we throw. That’s why you see softball pitchers pitching two or three games a day. It’s a natural movement in softball. In baseball it’s not a natural movement.

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So share some of the tricks to your longevity. 

There’s no magic answer. There’s no secret answer. In 1989, when I was with the Texas Rangers, I got hurt for the first time. I worked with a physical therapist, and went into the offseason thinking, ‘why wouldn’t I do this all the time in the offseason?’ That’s what I’ve done since then. I call it pre-hab. Rest is obviously a key in the offseason. But you also have to strengthen and rebuild muscles. Physical therapy is part of my offseason routine. That has helped me greatly.

Do you have any advice for people in their 40s who want to stay active as long as possible?

You have to work out, but working out can be something as simple as walking, riding a bike, or riding a stationary bike. But recovery is important too as you get older. Drinking a lot of water is very important for your body. Especially when you’re active. But even if you’re not active, drinking water, especially in the warmer weather, is important. Dehydration comes into play. You have to take care of yourself. Eat well. I’m not a big believer in vitamins and all that stuff. I believe if you eat well and rest well, you tend to be pretty healthy.

What’s your diet like? Do you totally avoid junk food?

As a younger player, probably not. As I’ve gotten a little bit older, yeah, I have. When I was with the Phillies (from 2006-2010), a professional dietician came to us, and talked about the benefits of eating well. It does make a difference. Does it make a huge difference in how you feel? I think it can. But you have to stay with it. If you’re traveling, if you’re a on a baseball schedule, it’s tough.

What we wound up doing in the Phillies organization, if we were traveling in an airplane, we had healthy choices. When we were in a visiting clubhouse, we had healthy choices. When we were in our home clubhouse, we had healthy choices. All of a sudden, we started to change our lives in a very positive way, by the food we were taking in. We were very talented. Teams were always looking for an edge, and that’s part of the reason why we got over the top.

But even then, you were in your mid-40s. Do you eat well before then?

For the most part, I ate pretty healthy. I like steak. I look sushi. I like pasta, but I’ve backed off a little bit on pasta. I’ve tried to cut out sugars, but not completely out of my body. I’ve cut coffee completely out of my diet since January. I have not had a cup of coffee. For the first time in my life I tried to lose a little weight, and I did.

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How old do you feel?

There are days when I wake up and feel older than I am. More often, I wake up and feel younger than I am. This winter, I’ve really gotten in something that’s kind of yoga, Pilates, and stretching all together. A friend of mine, [former MLB] closer Trevor Hoffman, turned me on to this in San Diego. It’s called Libafit. There’s this European lady, she’s just fabulous at what she does. There’s a 70-year-old gentleman, a number of middle-aged women, there’s some little kids, some college athletes, in the class. It’s phenomenal. I really feel like I benefit. I also went to a physical therapist in La Jolla (Calif.). I’ve been around a lot of good ones, but this guy was phenomenal to me. His name is Yusef.

How long can you do this?

I have no idea. I feel like I prepared the right way. My goal is to make this team. If I have the good fortune of making this team, and earning a spot on this team., my goal is to show those organization that they made the right choice.

But don’t you have a motivation to make it to 50? Be honest.

It’s funny you ask that. Someone asked me a few weeks ago – when did you start wearing number 50? I said, ‘oh, I think it as when I was in Seattle.’ (Moyer played with the Mariners between 1996-2006). Then someone researched it and said, ‘oh no, you wore 50 when you were with the Boston Red Sox (in 1996).’ I had no idea. I’ve never asked for a uniform number. I was just given to me. People say, ‘you got 50 because you want to play until you’re 50.’ But that’s not why.

Let me take you back a bit. When I was with the Rangers in 1989 and 1990, I had the good fortune of playing with Charlie Hough and Nolan Ryan. Both of those gentleman were in their early- to mid-40s at that time. I thought it was really cool that they were still playing at that age. I was in amazement at these gentlemen. Nolan Ryan was still throwing 90-plus, Charlie Hough was throwing his knuckleball up there. They were still being very competitive. I always said to myself back then, ‘wouldn’t it be really neat to play at that age?’”  And you know, I’ve surpassed it. And I think I’ve heard every old guy joke that you could imagine.