As far as Kevin Sharp was concerned, it truly was a Kodak Moment for the IMG Academy School at IMG Academy baseball program in Bradenton, Fla.
“Last spring I saw Jamie (Moyer) and the two boys (Dillon and Hutton) walk onto our field. Karen (Mrs. Moyer) followed with the stroller and five kids. I said, ‘Wow! It looks like the Brady Bunch.’’'
That was the introduction Sharp, who is head baseball coach, had to the Moyer family, which wound up moving from Seattle (Wash.) to Bradenton last fall so that the oldest boys – Dillon, a junior shortstop, and Hutton, a freshman second baseman – could concentrate on baseball and follow their dreams for the future.
Jamie, still a standout pitcher at age 46 for the world champion Philadelphia Phillies, told MaxPreps, “We were kind of looking at IMG for something to do on a short spring training day (the Phillies train at nearby Clearwater). We were nosing around the soccer area (Hutton also is a standout soccer player) and Dillon saw the baseball facilities. He kind of blurted out, ‘I’d like to play college baseball’ and our second guy said, ‘Me, too.’’’
Not long after that visit, Dillon gave up his chance to be the starting football quarterback (last fall) at Seattle O’Dea and Hutton passed on a promising soccer career. It was to be baseball or bust from then on.
Sharp revealed that Jamie Moyer, “wasn’t exactly sure how good his boys were. He said, ‘You have to tell me how good my sons are.’ He needed to see how they compared with the best in the country.”
“So far the boys have done very well,” Jamie noted. “They’ve worked very hard and done well on their grades. The cool thing is going to school with kids from all over the world. It’s a good culture to be raised in. Our goal for them is to go to college and play baseball. If the skill level takes them beyond, so be it.”
Another big plus for Jamie, in particular, is that after years of being in pro ball during his boys’ baseball season, he was able to watch more than a dozen of their games this spring before heading to Philadelphia.
"I’ve probably seen them play more this year than in their whole lives,” he said happily. “Both have a strong desire to succeed and have learned the game in a lot of ways. I never really pushed them (to play). I tried to motivate them but never push them. It’s just great to see them happy.”
Karen, who was a talented basketball player, understands the value of playing in Florida weather. She told MaxPreps, “My son (Dillon) was rained out of most of the baseball season (all but 10 games) as a sophomore and he was frustrated. We decided to move rather than to board them. It’s proven well worth it for many reasons.
“We had a really busy life in Seattle. Moving to Florida has simplified that. Jamie is home during spring training (commuting 45 miles most days). It’s convenient to go to games and practices. A lot of times we have all the kids over for meals.”
When they were small, Dillon and Hutton would drive Karen crazy playing ball with anything they could find – including rolled-up socks. “I always screamed, ‘No balls in the house!’ ’’ she admitted. “One thing I didn’t encourage,” she added, “was for them to pitch. Someone would say (brag) that they hit a home run off Jamie Moyer’s kid.”
Though Dillon and Hutton did some spot pitching in Little League, they basically played the infield – and they also played many other sports along the way.
“Like Jamie, they always were a step ahead,” says paternal grandfather Jim Moyer. “They always played something – they whipped me in golf. They are natural athletes.”
Just 20 months apart, Dillon and Hutton both say they felt no pressure at all to play sports, but just took to them naturally, loving every minute of it. Their favorite sport was whatever was in season at the time.
Dillon summed it all up nicely when he said, “I’ve been around it all my life. It’s what I know.” Hutton added, “Ever since we were born, we have loved every sport.”
Surprisingly, one of their earliest favorites was ice hockey while growing up in South Bend, Ind. One of Dillon’s first idols, in fact, was NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky, who once came to their house for dinner. Later on they followed the likes of Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.
As they reached school age (kindergarten, first grade) they began realizing that dad was more than dad, because other students would talk to them in somewhat awed tones. The result was that, “People looked up to us and we were leaders to them,” Hutton related. “He’s still dad, but it’s really cool to see him on TV.”
Asked about pressure of being Jamie Moyer’s son, Dillon replied, “I don’t feel any. There probably is some, but I guess I’m just used to it. I just feel baseball runs in our blood. After seeing them win the World Series, it’d be hard to pick anything else.”
Hutton agrees: “There’s no pressure. I hope to do the same thing he (Jamie) did and win a World Series title. We’re a little advanced on the mental side.”
After first watching Dillon work out, Sharp recalled, “When I saw his athleticism, I knew he was going to be my starting shortstop right away. Our shortstop was a fifth-round draft pick and he (Dillon) filled that role very admirably. He’d still be our shortstop if he hit a buck-35 (.135).
“You can’t describe the intangibles he brings. He made at least seven great plays (this spring). He’s a very old-school type of player. He controls the bat very well, is a situational hitter and plays great defense.”
Last fall the Moyer brothers actually were teamed as a slick double-play combination during four weeks of intrasquad games.
Coach Sharp explained, “We had four teams and played our own in-house World Series. They are mirror images. They played on the same team as if they were Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker (former Detroit Tigers middle infielders). They were seamless. We work six days a week with that seventh day off. Dillon and Hutton always come back to the ball park. It just never stops for them. Their social life revolves around baseball. They are mature beyond their years.”
Sharp loses his team leader through graduation, but he emphasizes, “I can’t wait until next year. (Dillon) will take that role and run with it. He’ll be our leader by example. He’s the most mature kid I’ve ever met.”
Adds IMG Academy baseball program director Ken Bolek, “Dillon is the type of player that you can build a team around, because he has accountability. He’s very heady and extremely consistent. He’s shown some power lately. We did some things with his hitting – changed his bat angle. He’s hit two home runs and two balls off the wall since then. He hits to the entire field, so he’ll have a high average.”
Dillon batted a fancy .377 this spring with a .534 on-base percentage. He had four doubles, two home runs, scored 33 runs and drove in 15 from the leadoff spot. He also drew 22 walks and struck out just 12 times in 77 at-bats. He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds and has great instincts on the basepaths.
Hutton, who is 5-foot-5 and 110 pounds, played on the JV team this spring. A switch hitter, he batted a solid .290, drove in 10 runs, walked eight times and scored eight times in 31-at-bats. He fanned only three times.
“As he matures into his body, he can play any of the infield positions,” Sharp predicted. Hutton isn’t worried, because he anticipates a big growth spurt sooner or later. His dad was only 5-9, 145 pounds as a high school senior and he grew to be 6-0, 180.
“We all anxiously await his growth spurt,” laughed Bolek, who affectionately has nicknamed him ‘Hulk.’ “He’s very athletic and doesn’t allow the game to overpower him. A couple times he wanted to revert to batting right-handed, but we told him to make a decision and stick with it.”
The brothers remain close, but love to needle each other. When Dillon hit his first home run, the family was in Philadelphia, prompting Hutton to ask, “What Little League field was it on?”
Dillon tells Hutton “Oh, you’re tiny – you can talk to me when you grow up.” Then Hutton (a 4.2 student) can ask his older brother about his grades (he has only a 3.5 average). And so it goes.
The Phillies’ surprise World Series championship last fall will continue to send sweet vibes through the Moyer family for years to come. First of all, they won the crown on the very day that Jamie and Karen were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. Jamie never again will have a valid excuse to forget his anniversary!
Hutton related, “Dad thanked grandpa (Moyer) ‘for all those ground balls in the backyard and all the time you spent with me.’ That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him. That was one of the best highlights of my life because I could see why we play and what we play for. It makes us want to play twice as hard.”
Adds Dillon, “It was really good to see my dad finally win and get a ring. Just seeing it and celebrating with the players - it’s my dream to, hopefully, some day do it, too.”
Still, their immediate future is tied to college. You can call it “Karen’s Credo” if you wish. “Mom says,” Hutton related, “unless you’re the first pick in the first round (of the Major League draft) you have to go to college.”
Now, that’s real pressure! Or, maybe it’s none at all.
Maternal grandfather Digger Phelps, who had a great run as Notre Dame’s basketball coach and now works for ESPN, is cautious about any professional predictions and, of course, stresses the value of an education.
Phelps told MaxPreps, “I hate to put pressure on kids that age. You don’t know until they both mature. Their next phase is what they’re doing now. I’ve seen a lot of recruits (fail to reach expectations) and so there are a lot of red flags put up. They’re really good kids and have their own sense of humor.
“Are they going to be like the Boone family (three generations of Major League players)? We’re not trying to do that.”
Summer plans will send Dillon to Philadelphia to play for national power Tri-State Arsenal. Hutton will return to Seattle, where the family still owns a home, and play for a 16-under team.
And all the time, the third boy, five-year-old McCabe, will be honing his skills in several sports. Karen swears, “He’s the best athlete in the family. He’s all lefty (like his father). He’s tough, very focused and he hates to lose.”