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Moyer motto: 'Enjoy it for as long as you can'

Pitcher left his mark at 47, becoming the oldest to throw a shutout
MLB.com

It was the dog days of the 2006 season and veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer began to think the unthinkable. He was 43 years old. After a decade of excellence with the Mariners leading to his election to the team's Hall of Fame in 2015, he was struggling.

"I was actually thinking about retiring," he said recently.

It was the dog days of the 2006 season and veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer began to think the unthinkable. He was 43 years old. After a decade of excellence with the Mariners leading to his election to the team's Hall of Fame in 2015, he was struggling.

"I was actually thinking about retiring," he said recently.

That all changed on August 19 when the Mariners traded the man who still holds the club record for wins in a season (21 in 2003) to the Phillies for minor leaguers Andrew Baldwin and Andy Barb.

Maybe it was the change of scenery. Maybe it was going to a team that was on the cusp of greatness; a streak of five straight division titles, two pennants and a World Series championship began the next year. Maybe it was comfort level. Moyer graduated from Souderton High School, an hour outside the city, and then attended St. Joseph's University. Whatever it was, something clicked.

"It was really like a shot in the arm to me. I felt rejuvenated," he said.

After the deal, Moyer went 5-2 down the stretch and spent four more years with the Phillies, going 56-40 in red pinstripes. He made more starts for the Phillies than any team except the Mariners in his 25-year career. On May 7, 2010 he became the oldest pitcher in history to pitch a shutout, blanking the Braves on two hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five. He was 47 years, 170 days old.

After missing the entire 2011 season recovering from Tommy John and flexor pronator surgery, he came back and won two more games for the Rockies, making his last big league appearance on May 27, 2012 when he was 49.

He's grateful that then-general manager Ed Wade pulled the trigger on that trade. Winning the World Series in 2008 was the obvious highlight from his Phillies years, but there was something deeper, too.

"Philadelphia is basically the town where I grew up and went to college and I had the good fortune of playing there," he said. "That four-plus years was very joyful. Moving toward the end of my career, it couldn't have worked out any better.

"I always wondered what it would be like. I didn't know if I would have the opportunity. It came full circle and ended up being one of the more memorable stops in my career. Playing for (manager) Charlie Manuel was a pleasure. I always enjoyed the coaching staffs. The relationship with the front office was great. And the fan base was very accepting as well. For me it was a perfect fit."

Now 54, Moyer lives in Seattle, plays a little golf and concentrates on his family. "I'm enjoying. Enjoying home life. I missed a lot of things with our older kids that I'm not able to capture with our younger kids. So I'm really enjoying my time at home," he said.

He's not completely divorced from baseball, though he helps former big leaguer Mike Sweeney, who ended his career with the Phillies in 2010, coach a travel team that includes his son, McCabe. Last year, the team played at the Field of Dreams complex in Cooperstown, New York. This summer they were scheduled for a tournament in Branson, Missouri.

His oldest son, Dillon, was drafted by the Dodgers and played in the Mariners system and is now a real estate agent in Seattle. Hutton, 24, is a switch-hitting second baseman for the Angels Double-A Mobile BayBears affiliate. He and his wife, Karen, also have five daughters.

Moyer spent the 2014 season as a Phillies television analyst, but ultimately didn't want to be away from home as much as that job required. He's been a Spring Training guest instructor for the Mariners and has checked out some of their Minor League teams. He's working with a handful of area kids in his backyard -- one received multiple college scholarship offers -- and was always considered to have the right stuff to be a big league pitching coach. Again, though, he's satisfied to stick close to home.

"The time that's required for that, I don't know that I could give that time right now. And I don't think it would be fair to my kids, nor do I think it would be fair to an organization or a pitching staff to be there just part time," he explained.

As Moyer's playing career wound down, there was always a suspicion that he wanted to pitch until he was 50. After all, why would he undergo serious elbow surgery at the age of 47? Why would he pitch winter ball in the Dominican Republic at that point of his career? Why, after being released by the Rockies, would he sign a Triple-A contract with the Orioles and report to Norfolk? And why, after that didn't work out, would he then hook on with the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays?

"You know what? If I heard it once I heard it a hundred times when I was around retired players. 'Play as long as you can. Enjoy it for as long as you can.' And I started to listen to that. I heard that ringing in my ears. I had people say, 'Play until they tear the uniform off your back. Play as long as you still have the passion and the urge to play.' And I really believe that's what I did," he explained.

"I had never thought of (pitching until 50). But as it was broached many, many times I thought it would be kind of cool. It just so happened that I wore the number 50. There were a lot of correlations with that. It would have been nice to be able to do that, but my body just wasn't going to allow that to happen."

He made three starts for Norfolk, but was released despite a 1.69 earned run average. He made two starts for Las Vegas that didn't go as well. "They said, 'If you want to meet us after the All-Star break and continue to pitch, we'd love to have you. And if you want to go home, you can go home.' And I said, 'You know what? I think I'm going to go home,'" he said.

"But those five starts in Triple-A are something I'll cherish as much as the 600-something starts I had in the Major Leagues. It took me back to a really simple, naïve, healthy place. It allowed me to kind of let go of my career. I was way older than a lot of those players. Some had had a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues. Some were trying to get there. But it really reminded me of the solidarity that happens in the minor leagues. How players bond together. They're chasing their dreams.

"And it got to the point where I was like, 'You're 49 years old. You're taking somebody's livelihood away from them by being on the roster. You've had your chance, you've had your opportunity, you've had your joy, you've had your happiness, you've had your dream fulfilled. It's time to let go.' And I did. So it was an easy decision for me."

For Moyer, it was a satisfying end to a remarkable career. Far more satisfying, it's fair to say, than if he had walked away six years earlier.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

Philadelphia Phillies