A great deal of talent is lost in this world for want of a little courage.
As it was for many ballplayers, the idea of seeing a psychologist — a shrink! — was totally anathema to Jamie Moyer. But there he was, on a crisp, sunny day, wandering the baggage claim area of Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, looking for his last and best hope at salvaging the only career he'd ever wanted. He was twenty-nine years old, with a wife and infant son at home, and he was without a baseball team for the first time since he was eight years old.
Back then, Moyer would tell whoever would barely listen that he was going to be a major league pitcher. There were plenty of doubters, even as he dominated in high school and college. But he'd made it to the Show, using the naysaying as psychic fuel along the way. But when the call came from Tom Grieve, general manager of the Texas Rangers, on November 12, 1990, how Moyer had always defined himself was suddenly no longer applicable. With six terse words — "We don't see you helping us" — Jamie Moyer became a former big leaguer. And one with a desultory 34–49 career record.
Rock, meet bottom.
So Moyer thought, What do I have to lose? before flying to Arizona to meet someone his agent, Jim Bronner, thought could be of help. As Karen said before sending Jamie on his way, "Treat this as a learning experience."
He was here to meet Harvey Dorfman, who was arriving on another flight. Together they would drive to Dorfman's home in Prescott, Arizona, about ninety miles away, for a weekend of sessions that ... what? Would have him unearth long-dormant resentments about his mother while he was lying on a couch?
In truth, Moyer had read and been intrigued by Dorfman's classic book The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, and he'd heard good things about Dorfman from players in the Oakland organization, where Dorfman was on staff and in the process of revolutionizing the subterranean world of sports psychology. But Moyer had grown up in the tiny blue-collar hamlet of Souderton, Pennsylvania, not exactly a New Age zip code.
Plus they weren't a particularly emotive bunch, the Moyers. They expressed themselves through a shared love of baseball. Neighbors would pass the nearby ball field and see those baseball-crazy Moyers — mom Joan, sis Jill, and Jamie all in the outfield, shagging dad Jim's fly balls. Jim, a former minor league shortstop, served as Jamie's coach throughout American Legion ball. Souderton, a working-class suburban town of some
6,000 residents an hour outside Philadelphia, was where Moyer's baseball education took hold—as well as his values. His early baseball journey was nurtured by an entire town that seemed to jump right out of some idealized version of America's past; the same folks who cheered on his three no-hitters his junior year of high school populated Friday night's football games and prayed together at church on Sunday. He'd gone from that atavistic world into the macho realm of the professional baseball clubhouse, where introspection is traditionally looked upon with suspicion.
"Hi, I'm Harvey Dorfman," a waddling, croaky-voiced fiftysomething said, approaching with outstretched hand. Dorf- man didn't look like an athlete, with his hunched shoulders, gimpy gait, and baggy sweatshirt, but Moyer knew that during the season he was in the dugout in an Oakland A's uniform. And anyone — even a shrink — who wore the uniform deserved the benefit of the doubt.
On the awkward ride to Dorfman's house, the two men made small talk. Dorfman asked open-ended questions about Moyer's upbringing and his history in the game, and soon Moyer was unburdening himself:
"I can't throw my curveball for strikes." Dorfman said nothing.
"I got to the major leagues because of my changeup, but I just show it now. I don't throw it for strikes."
Dorfman said nothing.
"When I'm on the mound, I can't stop thinking about being pulled. Or released."
Dorfman said nothing. He simply smiled.
Isn't this guy going to tell me what to do? Moyer wondered.
From Just Tell Me I Can't by Jamie Moyer and Larry Platt. Copyright 2013. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.