— When Jamie Moyer picked up his first major-league win on the mound, Ronald Reagan was still president.
He is old enough that one of his sons was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2010. One of the players he beat for a starting spot in the Colorado Rockies’ rotation this spring wasn’t even born when Moyer made his major league debut on June 16, 1986, as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Moyer’s fastball may barely break 80 miles per hour — which wouldn’t even merit a speeding ticket in some states — but he is still slinging it at the highest level of baseball. Now in his 25th season, the 49-year-old left-hander is set to make history.
On Saturday, he will start Colorado’s second game of the season against the Houston Astros in a bid to become the oldest pitcher in Major League Baseball history to earn a victory. He will be the first 49-year-old to play in the big leagues since Julio Franco did it for the Braves in 2007, and the oldest pitcher to appear in a game since Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm threw some innings in relief at 49 in 1972.
“I’m feeling pretty good,’’ Moyer told TODAY on Tuesday. “It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication, but it takes opportunity, and the Rockies have been very gracious in allowing me to have the opportunity this season.’’
His shot at immortality comes after he missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery, a graft procedure, to repair his left elbow. Moyer worked as an analyst for ESPN while rehabbing his injury, but thoughts of moving into the broadcast field full time did not cross his mind.
“I really felt that I needed to let the doctors just work and let myself try the rehab and see where it went from there, so here I am,’’ he told Matt Lauer.
With a 2.77 earned run average in spring training, Moyer beat out 22-year-old Tyler Chatwood and 28-year-old Guillermo Moscoso to earn a spot in the Rockies’ starting rotation. He enters the season with 267 career victories, the most of any active major-league pitcher and 36th all time. He may not be blowing people away with 100-mile-an-hour fastballs like the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, but he is focused on something he has done well over his long career – getting wins.
“It’s not a lot of fire, but I can still get it up there and hopefully get a lot of people out,’’ he said.
Moyer will share the dugout with teammates who are half his age or even younger, and looks forward to mentoring players whose careers are just starting.
“I don’t want to say it’s difficult, but it’s different,’’ Moyer said. “I enjoy it though, because it allows me to feel a lot younger. This is what I’ve done my whole life and if I can share the experiences I’ve had in my life with some of these younger guys — it was given to me as a young player — and I think it’s important to give back to the game.’’
Moyer has done more than just give back to baseball. His charity, the Moyer Foundation, has raised more than $20 million to help empower children in distress by providing education and support. Moyer has eight children, including one adopted from Guatemala, and has used his unique story of longevity to promote the foundation. He particularly is proud of the work done at Camp Erin, a free camp that has helped 8,000 children and teens across the country who are grieving a significant loss.
“It’s not really the reason I play, but we’ve realized that we are on the stage as athletes and can bring that to people’s attention,’’ Moyer said. “We feel fortunate to be on this stage and be able to discuss this and create the awareness for Camp Erin.’’