I had the craziest dream last night that Ken Griffey Jr. had signed with the Mariners. I’ve got to stop having midnight pizza.
It’s finally time to break free from the Junior story, or at least the Braves’ part of it, so I headed out to Clearwater to check out Phillies’ camp — or Mariner South, as it could be called. I had barely walked into the clubhouse when I ran into Jake Wood, who is here on a non-roster basis. “Lot of my old teammates in here,” he said.
There’s Raul Ibanez, of course. Not to mention Greg Dobbs and Miguel Cairo. If you want to get obscure, there’s Yorman Bazardo and Justin Lehr. If you want to get really obscure, there’s John Mayberry Jr., a No. 1 draft choice by the Mariners who never signed. In the front office there’s Benny Looper and Pat Gillick, who snuck up behind me in the press room to say hello. Pat retired as general manager after the World Series, but is still a consultant to new GM Ruben Amaro, and will be in Florida for all of spring training. Anything to get out of a Seattle winter.
And then there’s the ageless wonder, Jamie Moyer, who we calculated together is in his 25th spring-training camp since getting drafted by the Cubs in 1984. Cole Hamels, the Phillies’ World Series MVP and a Moyer protege, is 25 years old. But Moyer, at age 46, said he still has the same itch, the same feeling of nervousness and excitement with which he greets every season.
“I enjoy it. I really do,” he said.
Moyer especially enjoys coming to camp as a defending champion. Every so often, he sees the final out of last year’s World Series against Tampa Bay on television, and all the feelings rush back.
“It’s not like it was when it really took place, but it’s exciting, and when I see it, I get a nice, warm feeling,” he said.
And when he was experiencing it?
“Oh, my. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. It was an unbelievable experience, something you can wish upon everyone who likes the game, or played the game. It was just a wonderful feeling of doing something together as a team, a culmination of everything I’ve worked for in my career.”
Moyer’s scathing comments on former Seattle teammate Alex Rodriguez earlier this week got a lot of national play. “What does he have to play for now?” Moyer told a Philadelphia newspaper, adding of A-Rod’s Hall of Fame chances, “Who in their right mind would vote for anyone who got caught taking that stuff?”
I asked Moyer if in contrast Griffey, another of his former Seattle teammates, deserved to be celebrated for being widely believed to be a clean superstar.
“I think he should be,” Moyer replied. “But the way I look at it, too, he’s just doing his job. I don’t know if we celebrate it, but we acknowledge it. There have been many, many, many players that have just done their job. And that’s what every other person does that doesn’t play baseball.”
Moyer and his family, by the way, have moved from Seattle to Bradenton, Florida, so that his two oldest sons, Dylan, 17, and Hutton, soon to be 16, could enroll in the IMG Baseball Academy, an offshoot of the famous Bollettieri Tennis Academy. But Jamie and wife Karen remain involved with the Moyer Foundation, and they plan to move back to Seattle eventually. Meanwhile, their seven kids are loving Florida.
“What’s not to love about Florida in winter time?” he said.
I have a hunch that Moyer, who signed a two-year contract this offseason that will expire when he’s 48, has a secret goal of pitching when he’s 50. I asked him if that’s possible. He didn’t say no.,
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m closer to 50 than I am 40. But a lot has to happen, a lot of things have to go the right way for that to happen. My feeling is, I’m going to take this year and enjoy it. We have pretty much the whole team back. We’re the team that’s going to be chased probably, because we’re the world champions now. Just because you’ve won it once, you don’t just fall into it a second time. That hasn’t happened for a long time. I’ve only been here a couple of days, but I’m sensing the guys are anxious to get back at it.”
I also caught up with Raul Ibanez. I’ll write about that later.
(Photo by Getty Images)