As in the amount of pounds he gained since “retiring” after Game 6 of last season’s World Series.
But when Eyre showed up at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon, presumably to warm up before throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, all he could do was laugh at the little joke about his presumed fitness (or lack thereof) and his penchant for having fun. However, it turns out that “real life” is far more taxing than the life of a Major League Baseball pitcher and Eyre will go to the mound on Wednesday for his pitch a good 10 pounds lighter than he was when he last wore the Phillies uniform.
“For a while I couldn’t keep weight on,” he said with a laugh and a smile. “I’m always busy now. There’s always something to do. When I was pitching I was sitting around and eating three times a day because I was bored. If I got into a rhythm or got into a role, I went with it. ‘Hey, what did I do yesterday?’ Oh, I just sat here. I guess I’ll do that again.”
Though his waistline has diminished, his quick laugh, wide smile and zeal for… everything, has not. Retirement at age 38 has been good to Scott Eyre. Hell, life in general has been good to Scott Eyre. Drafted in the ninth round after a solid (but not earth-shattering) career at Cyprus High, a brisk jog from the Great Salt Lake, and the College of Southern Idaho, Eyre turned his left-handedness and his ability to get quick outs into an 18-year pro baseball career that lasted 13 seasons in the big leagues and got him into the World Series three times.
Nope, Eyre isn’t waiting for the phone call from the Hall of Fame or, frankly, a call from anyone. But when MLB.tv called asking him to provide some commentary, he took the call. The same goes for an RV trip over the next 60 days or when his pal Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine sent him an autographed guitar to give as a gift to his buddy, Brad Lidge. Eyre was ready for those calls.
But the one that made him dash north to Philadelphia wasn’t one asking him to pitch, per se. It was the call asking Eyre to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the first game of the 2010 playoff chase that seems to have gotten Eyre the most excited.
“I was here a year and two months and now I’m back throwing the first pitch,” he said with an unbelieving shake of his head. “What did I do to deserve to come here and throw out the first pitch?”
Well, where do we start?
See, Eyre isn’t too different from the hardcore baseball fans sitting in the stands with a beer and a dog while rooting for the Phillies. So it seems as if Eyre is living the life that everyone blessed with a certain extraordinary skill would live if given the chance to collect a big league paycheck before taking on the vested pension. Oh sure, he could have pitched another season, but when Phils’ general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. downplayed Eyre’s promise that he would pitch for the Phillies or retire, the lefty had to climb into the cab of his RV and drive into the sunset.
Still, there was that itch to play. Eyre had surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow during the winter and then spent the off-season pitching more bullpen sessions than in any off-season he can remember.
However, when it came down to it, the pitcher was happy at home and his wife, Laura, and his two sons, Caleb and Jacob, were happy to have him home, too.
Yes, retired at age 38.
“I don’t know how close it was,” Eyre said about coming back in 2010. “You know what the funniest question I’ve gotten is? It’s not, do you miss it, it’s when they look at my wife and say, ‘What’s it like having him back home every day. Do you like it?’ We’re happily married. She tells them that she loves having me home every day and it’s true.
“The transition was smooth, it wasn’t easy. Because in here I still wanted to play,” he said, tapping on his heart. “But in my head I was OK. I was home, I was a dad, I was taking the kids to the bus stop every morning. But in here [tapping his heart again], I just wasn’t ready.
“Phillies or nowhere else. I shouldn’t have said it out loud.”
Then again he probably didn’t have to. The 2009 season was a tough one for Eyre off the field. Aside from the elbow full of bone chips, he also pulled his calf badly during a game in New York. Then there as the incident where his assets were frozen because of an investigation into the Stanford Financial fraud case. The Phillies had to front him a couple of bucks so he could get by until the issue was straightened out.
Yet when Eyre pitched, he pitched well. A 2-1 record and 1.50 ERA in 42 games for a lefty specialist is exceptional. Mix in two runs over 12 playoff outings during two Octobers with the Phillies and Eyre went out on top.
Now he gets one more pitch.
“I thought [they were calling to ask for me] to walk it to the mound and give it to some deserving person,” Eyre said before turning excited. “What if I bounce it! What if I throw it over his head! Crap, what if I trip on the way out there! If I throw it hard they’re going to get excited, and if I lob it they’re going to boo me.”
No, don’t expect Eyre to get booed. It’s kind of tough to boo the everyman laughing and smiling his way through life. Call him a Philly guy by way Utah, Idaho, the White Sox, Giants, Blue Jays and Cubs before he landed with the Phillies for the last year and two months of his career.
Eyre was guy who got it the second he arrived and picked up a win after facing just one hitter in his Phillies’ debut.
“Philadelphia was not a fun place to come play as a visitor. But when I got here and got a one-pitch win in my first game—I threw a bad fastball, got a popup and a win—the next day at the Residence Inn in Deptford, someone came up to me and said, ‘Aren’t you the new guy who threw one pitch and got a win?’ I got treated so nice for just doing my job. I got a left-hander out here or there and did whatever Charlie asked,” Eyre said.
Maybe that was the thing? Eyre liked to see himself as a guy doing a job instead of a “big leaguer.” He was one of those guys that slipped in and out of any clique simply because he liked to get to know people. Just a guy doing a job, he reasoned. There was no reason to get too excited over that.
“See, to me I don’t look at it like that. The other day my dog had surgery for a dislocated hip and after I left and came back the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t know who you were. I looked it up and saw your stats and you were pretty good,’” Eyre said. “I told him he wasn’t supposed to know who I was. I appreciate it, but I always took it as this is a job and it’s what I do, but I’m still a fan. I’m a big kid when it comes to this stuff. I still get excited when I see some players. I felt like I did a good job and I got to three World Series. I pitched good in the World Series—I was good in the playoffs—but I just like keeping myself as a normal person.”
Eyre told a story about a time on his summer RV trip where he and the family took 10 weeks to drive all over the country and just blended in. That was even the case when he befriended people.
“I used to tell everyone. ‘Hey, I’m a big leaguer!’ But now I don’t tell anyone,” he said. “I want to get to know people for who they are. We met a couple—a family—on an RV trip and we spent three days with them and they didn’t know I played baseball until the last day when we were leaving. My kids were wearing t-shirts everyday and they have so many that the guy finally said, ‘Are you guys Phillies fans,’ and my oldest son said, ‘Well, my dad played.’ So yeah, there you go. Thirteen years.
“How do you think I retired and bought [an RV]?”
He’s just a regular old dude traveling in a big RV and wearing an inscribed Rolex that was a gift from Brad Lidge after the 2008 season. A guy who gets excited telling a story about his kids getting to shake hands with Jim Thome and can’t wait to pitch batting practice to the kid’s little league team.
A guy who gets to live the good life with nothing but time.
“Why me? I know why,” Eyre said, genuinely befuddled by his good fortune. “For me, for what my job was in the big leagues, to have people still say, ‘Oh man, we needed you,’ that’s the most flattering thing I’ve ever been told. To still be wanted, but not necessarily needed, is so unbelievably flattering.”
Almost as much as being asked to throw out the first pitch before a playoff game. Yes, it’s tough not to like the guy living the good life and recognizing just how lucky he is.
“Most people inquire and ask what’s a 38-year old doing retired and traveling around in an RV,” he said. “I tell them I’m retired. That’s it.”