For Blue Jays fans growing up, Roy Halladay was a superhero.
A larger-than-life figure, the Blue Jays ace pitcher nicknamed Doc was a constant star for Canada’s lone MLB team. Over the course of his 18-year career — 11 of which were spent in Toronto. Halladay was a combined
203-105, eight-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Winner as the best pitcher in the game.
On Nov. 7, Halladay died in a plane crash. He was 40.
In the days that’ve passed since, there’s been a lot of outpour about Halladay. A once-in-a-generation talent, Halladay was the ultimate professional when he took the mound every five games. While I could go on about his mechanics — his slow wind-up, high leg kick and bringing his arms together above his head to gain momentum were legendary, yes — his impact is left somewhere else for me.
I’ll put it bluntly, the Blue Jays were a bad team when I grew up. The late ‘90s and 2000s were a tumultuous time to be a Jays fan in Toronto. Throughout their multiple rebrandings, the organization sold fans on the idea of the team getting better, contending with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
That was false hope. What they should’ve done was sold us on Doc.
Although he was a man of few words while he played, Halladay taught baseball fans about hard work. If you were to look back on his career, Halladay wasn’t the hardest thrower, nor did he have the biggest amount of break on his pitches.
But what left me in awe every five games was how he fooled opposing batters. Known as a meticulous planner, Halladay knew every opposing batters’ tendencies; what they liked, what they didn’t and how to throw them off.
When I think of Halladay, I don’t think about the no-hitters or him throwing a perfect game or the postseason no-hitter he threw as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. I see the stoic Halladay walk slowly back to his dugout while the opposing team shook their heads in defeat.
At the end of the day, Halladay let his play do the talking.
Typically, when a star player leaves a team, fans are typically upset they’ve left. When Halladay was traded in 2009 to the Phillies for a bunch of prospects who didn’t pan out, Blue Jays fans weren’t mad. Rather, there was a sense that he already gave everything he could to the city of Toronto and he needed to move on so he could chase a World Series ring.
While he was never quite able to achieve that, Halladay retired as a Blue Jay in 2013 after signing a ceremonial one-day contract. Toronto’s favourite baseball son returned home, albeit for a short time.
I could go on and on about what you meant to Toronto, to Canada and to Major League Baseball, but that’s best left for someone else to do. As just one fan, all I can say is he defined what an athlete should be like as a role model. Dominant on the mound and professional on and off the field, they don’t make them like Halladay anymore.
So on behalf of the young kid who tried to mimic your pitching style and the slightly older one who’ll always look back in awe, thanks for everything Doc.
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