When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to live next to a large open field. At one end stood our yard, and at the other was a row of 20-foot tall pine trees. We had our own Fenway Park right in our backyard. Once we began playing there all the time, improvements were made. Our backyard hockey rink boards would be repurposed for the summers as a backstop. Our father secretly stole dirt from the town’s Little League pile to create a pitchers mound. We wouldn’t leave that diamond until it got dark, and even then, we’d bring out the floodlights and finish our game.
It was our field, our domain, but at the same time, we shared it with so many others. Very rarely would you be playing as yourself. You would step into the box and become Garry Sheffield, field a grounder at first like Nomar, make a leaping catch at the wall like Griffey or close out a game like Billy Wagner. These, of course, are the good days. Sometimes you hit like Brad Ausmus, fielded like Chuck Knoblauch and closed games out like the late, great Rod Beck. You were a star or a bum, there was no in-between.
There was one player, however, who was off limits. We all knew you couldn’t be him. He was too good, too smart, too dominant. He was not a player you could jump into, he was a player you had to become. You couldn’t be him because there was only one Roy Halladay.
Roy “Doc” Halladay was frightening and electric, yet somehow lights out. The guy was un-hittable. Halladay was the kind of player who deepens your understanding of the game, all the while shaking what you thought you knew about pitching.
There was a point in 2010 where it almost seemed foolish to show up in the dugout when Halladay was on the mound. If you did decide to show up and face the man, the odds were that he would be going the distance, slowly dissecting your lineup, piece by piece.
Halladay was considered to be a groundball pitcher, someone who pitches to contact. Sinkerball pitches tend to do that. However, it’s interesting to see an uptick in the number of strikeouts he was getting in the latter years of his career. How does a pitcher not known for his strikeout abilities suddenly begin punching out hitters? Simple. Halladay always had a distinctive and dirty sinker, most groundball pitchers do. The addition of a change-up was the key. The difference between a sinker and changeup out of Halladay’s arm was minuscule, but to a hitter it’s was actual sorcery. That slight difference out of his hand was the difference between a ground-ball to Chase Utley and a Strikeout.
One of my favorite things about Halladay was his demeanor during games. There’s an unwritten rule of baseball that you do not speak to a pitcher who’s throwing a No-Hitter or a Perfect Game. Many pitchers have described this feeling as “bottled insanity” where it’s just you, isolated, alone with your thoughts, going absolutely nuts. Halladay pitched every game like that. Full isolation mode. Now, this might seem like Halladay is taking his job too seriously. Sure. But with Halladay, every game was as close to a No-Hit bid as you could get.
Roy Halladay’s second big league start? He carried a no-hitter into the ninth, only to have it broken up after the first two outs. Some people are born with ice in their veins. Roy Halladay was one of those people.
And then there’s October 6th, 2010, in his first postseason appearance. The Phillies were two years removed from their 2008 championship, and Halladay was brought in to bring them another ring. Facing off against the Cincinnati Reds int he NLDS, Roy Halladay made history. Only twice in Baseball’s history has a No-Hitter been thrown in the postseason. There’s Don Larsen‘s perfect game in the World Series and Halladay’s Postseason debut. Halladay also became the first player to throw a No-Hitter and a Perfect Game in the same season.
Roy Halladay’s accomplishments on the field were matched by his contributions to the community off the field. With numerous Roberto Clemente nominations throughout his career, Halladay was known for helping underprivileged kids. While playing in Toronto, Halladay and his wife Brandy would invite children and their families from the Hospital for Sick Children to Blue Jays games. “Doc’s Box” was a kid-friendly box, designed by Halladay as an escape for families and children going through treatment. Also, in addition to Doc’s Box, Halladay structured his contract with the Blue Jays so that for each year he played in a Blue Jays uniform the front office would donate $100,000 dollars to the Jays Care Foundation.
Roy Halladay passed away in 2017, when his Icon A5 plane crashed in shallow waters off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He leaves behind his wife Brandy and two children, Ryan and Braden. A true family man, Halladay wasn’t afraid to show off his family on social media. In fact, in his last tweets, he posted a picture of his son’s high school baseball team with the caption “proud dad #family” following it up with a picture of their championship ring. Youth baseball was a passion project for Roy, stating “Going home and just seeing what a mess youth baseball was an eye-opener. I just want to make it a better game.” Both of his sons play ball and their teams have succeeded under Roy’s expert instruction.
The other thing of note when you take a look at his twitter feed is how much Roy loved to fly. For someone as stoic and focused, to see him talk about how much he loved his plane and the sky is both heartbreaking and comforting. I’m not the type of person to say “he died doing what he loved,” but in this case, I am glad that was able to share that part of his life with us, at least for a short time. One of his in-flight videos was posted with the caption “What do clouds feel like? I didn’t know either until I got my new Icon A5! I’m getting bruises on my arms from constantly pinching myself!”
Roy Halladay’s passing is a tragedy. One that breaks the heart of every baseball fan everywhere, but if there’s any solace in this it’s that Roy Halladay lived the fullest life in his short time on this planet, and we all got to watch him flourish and grow into not only a one of a kind pitcher, but an amazing human, loving husband, and proud father.
Joey Votto put it best, saying that “[Halladay] is an Ace among Aces.” Now, he can talk shop with Jose Fernandez, Christy Matthewson, Cy Young, and maybe even try to blow some by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.
Doc, you are missed.
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