As he squeezed the champagne from his burning eyes, Jamie Moyer tried to find the right words.
They were there, surely. The 45-year-old pitcher is almost as good at talking about baseball as he is at playing and teaching it. But this – a ticket punched through to the World Series after all these years – was a bit much even for him.
“I’m … I’m … in the moment,” Moyer said.
And that’s how it should be. Words weren’t really necessary at that point. Here’s a guy who pitched his first big-league game in 1986, the year of Buckner and the Mets’ World Series championship.
He has hung on, using his underwhelming fastball and his barely-a-changeup and his sheer smarts to fool hitters and win games and hang onto the dream of going to a World Series someday.
Someday is here. Next week, probably in Game 3 in Philadelphia, Moyer will start his first World Series game about one month shy of his 46th birthday.
“You dream of this and it’s now here and it’s really hard to believe,” Moyer said during the raucous clubhouse celebration Wednesday night. “I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet. We’re here, we’re in the moment, we’re going to enjoy the moment.”
He looked around at his younger teammates (they’re all younger, some by decades) carrying on like unsupervised kindergarteners.
“Great group of guys, great organization, our city has backed us – I’m at a loss for words,” Moyer said.
Every member of the 2008 Phillies – from the folks in the front office to the training staff, from the coaches to the clubhouse managers to the players to the ticket sellers – has made a journey to be a part of this. No journey has been more improbable, more against the odds, than Moyer’s.
In his shaving kit, he keeps an old scouting report on himself from his college days. A major-league scout thought he had some potential, but couldn’t help noting the lack of velocity and can’t-miss tools.
Someone asked him the other day if he’s ever thrown 90 mph. “Two of my pitches together, maybe,” Moyer said.
And yet Moyer is still here, still pitching in the big leagues.
There is a film called “Running on Empty” that features a scene where Judd Hirsch and his family are sitting in a car listening to a Phillies game on the radio. The unmistakable voice of Harry Kalas can be heard talking about a pitching change for the Cubs.
The pitcher involved is Jamie Moyer.
Hirsch’s son is played by River Phoenix, who has been dead since 1993 – the last time the Phillies were in the World Series.
The film came out in 1988. Twenty years later, Kalas and Moyer were at Dodger Stadium, celebrating a trip to the World Series.
There’s just something very cool about that.“It has taken a long time to get here,” Moyer said. “Now that you’re here, you want to win. That’s what this team has been all about, it’s about winning.
“I really believe that, going into this postseason, we had a club that really had that sour taste in its mouth from last year,” Moyer said. “It was more than just getting to the playoffs. It was getting deep into the playoffs and we’ve been fortunate enough to get that far this year. We still have work to do, but I’m really proud of this group.”