When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Roy Halladay.
Yesterday, Roy “Doc” Halladay died in a plane crash. It was his plane. He was the only one on board. Halladay was only 40-years-old, and leaves behind a wife and two boys.
I didn’t know how to react when I heard the news. It didn’t seem real and it still doesn’t.
Halladay was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995 and pitched for them from 1998 – 2009. That is my childhood right there.
When he requested a trade and the Blue Jays obliged by sending him to the Philadelphia Phillies (2010-2013), it was bittersweet. I was happy that he would finally get the chance to play in the playoffs, but deep down, I wished he could’ve done that here.
I grew up watching Halladay, who was oftentimes the only bright spot on an otherwise poor Blue Jays team. Every fifth day he pitched felt like “guaranteed win day”. He was that good. He was that dominant.
I’ve learned not to idolize athletes because, most of the time, they’ll end up disappointing you. However, I idolized Halladay. He never disappointed me.
Unlike most professional athletes, he never made the game about him.
My favourite thing about him was his disposition on the mound. It never changed. He was locked in and serious the entire way through. No moment was bigger than another.
If he got a big strikeout or his team made a big play, he didn’t stand there celebrating. He would just turn around and walk to the dugout, knowing it was only one play and the job was not done.
That’s why I wanted to be like Roy Halladay.
As a kid playing softball, I found myself pitching more often than not.
When my teammates made a big play behind me or I made a big strikeout, I didn’t stand there celebrating. I didn’t scream. I didn’t wave my hands in the air. I didn’t jump around.
Halladay didn’t, so I wouldn’t.
One of the only times I remember Halladay being over-expressive on the field was in a game the Blue Jays played in Tampa Bay. One of Tampa’s hitters hit a slow roller up the first base line.
Halladay picked it up thinking it was a foul ball. Unbeknownst to him, the umpire call it a fair ball. The batter reached first base safely. And then Halladay got mad. He was yelling at the umpire. He was animated. He was fighting for what he thought was right.
I even remember the broadcaster saying at the time, something along the lines of, “If Halladay is arguing, you know he must be right.”
That moment stuck with me for some reason.
When the coach told us to run off the field after an inning, I’d walk off from the mound because that’s what Halladay did. Granted, most major league pitchers walk to the dugout to conserve their energy, so this wasn’t unique to Halladay. But I pretended that it was.
Halladay was better than you, but wouldn’t rub it in your face. He’d make you look silly, and then quietly walk off the field. I loved that.
We’re in an era where starting pitchers throw six innings and are happy. Halladay wanted to go nine innings every single game. In his career, he had 67 complete games. That is unheard of nowadays.
He was in a class of his own, both on the field and off it. He donated $100,000 of his contract each year he was in Toronto to the Jays Care Foundation.
No one cared more. No one worked harder.
I feel terrible for his family. I feel terrible for his friends. I feel terrible for his former teammates. I just feel terrible, in general.
A quick glance at his Twitter feed tells you that he loved flying and his family.
You’ll hear stories from his old teammates who will say that Halladay would be finished his workout and dripping in sweat before anyone else even arrived.
You’ll hear stories about him going in before 5AM and staying late after games, just to get his work in.
You’ll hear stories about how on game day, everyone knew not to say a word to him because he wouldn’t reply. He was locked in.
In his second career game in the majors, he was one out away from a no-hitter. I remember watching that game back in 1998 as a 7-year-old boy.
All of a sudden, Bobby Higginson of the Detroit Tigers hit a home run over the left field fence. The no-hitter was gone.
After that, things got worse before they got better for Halladay. He was sent back down to the lowest level of the minor leagues to re-invent himself with pitching coach, Mel Queen.
All of that feels like just yesterday to me because I still remember it.
When he made it back to the Blue Jays, he established himself as one of the best pitchers of his generation. Maybe he didn’t get the recognition he deserved because he was playing in Canada, but the fans here knew he was great. And the players around the league knew it too.
Derek Jeter said Halladay was the toughest pitcher he’s ever faced. That says a lot.
Halladay is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019. It saddens me that he won’t be there to make a speech and go in as a Blue Jay.
Roy Halladay was one of the best, and not just because he was a great baseball player.
Thanks for the memories, Doc. You were one of a kind.