Remembering Baseball Legend Roy Halladay: Friend, Father, 5 a.m. Workout Warrior

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistNovember 7, 2017

Former Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay acknowledges the crowd before a baseball game against the New York Mets, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

What I remember most is the early mornings, spring of 2010.

This was away from the noise of Roy Halladay's two Cy Young awards, eight All-Star appearances and the absolute brilliance of what would come some eight months later, when he no-hit Cincinnati in Game 1 of the Cincinnati Reds-Philadelphia Phillies Division Series, his first-ever postseason appearance.

No. This was 8 a.m., just after the Phillies' clubhouse opened to the media at their spring training home in Clearwater, Florida. Following more than a decade with the Toronto Blue Jays, Halladay was 33, wanted desperately to win and had engineered an offseason trade to the Phillies for two reasons.

One, they were coming off consecutive World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009. And two, because he lived with his wife and two young sons just a short drive from Philadelphia's camp and wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.

Inside that mid-February clubhouse what the Phillies couldn't stop talking about regarding their new ace was how early Halladay arrived every day.

Like, 4:30-or-5-in-the-morning early.

A minor leaguer named Phillippe Aumont told me he had been in town three weeks and had yet to beat Halladay to the Phillies' workout facility in the morning. Veteran closer Brad Lidge told me of Halladay's legendary workouts, "when I'm getting here at 9 in the morning, he's finishing up."

Greatness becomes publicly visible in front of 47,000 standing, frenzied fans during the maw of a no-hitter, or in the throes of a perfect game, or in the plow horse workload of eight 200-inning seasons.

But greatness begins at home, before dawn and alone. It feeds on drive, and it is fueled by ambition.

Roy Halladay, who died Tuesday unspeakably early, at the prime-of-life age of 40, when the small aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, tapped into those things as much as any ace of his generation.

He was great for the Toronto Blue Jays for most of a decade, he was great for the Phillies from 2010-13, and when his shoulder frayed and the hop disappeared from his fastball following all of those innings and finally led him into retirement, he was great with his family.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

He reappeared this spring talking about it. He always said he'd be back one day, that baseball always would be in his blood, but worn out from the weight and expectations of two organizations upon retirement, first he needed to go home and be a dad and a husband. And when he finally came back this spring to help with the Phillies' pitchers, he was essentially moonlighting. His real job was as the pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School, a mere mile away from the Phillies' complex, where his son Braden, 16, was a sophomore pitcher. His other son, Ryan, is now 12.

As a competitor, as a father, as a friend, as someone who gave of his time to charity, Halladay earned rave reviews from whichever clubhouse he called home. He led by example and was widely admired, and with baseball's family scattered for the winter following the conclusion of the World Series last week, the shattering, sickening news spread quickly, and the reactions only reinforced it.


Another spring morning, this one in 2009.

Halladay ran through a workout with Toronto in what would be his final spring with the Blue Jays. Indications were growing that he would be traded within the next year. The Canadian dollar had taken a beating in a slumping economy and the Jays were forced to slice payroll. The club's owner, Ted Rogers, had died months before. Meanwhile, Halladay wasn't getting any younger. But when I caught him at the end of the team's workout, he still hadn't run through his own individual workout. If you want to hang around, he told me, I'll talk. But he warned: It's going to be a while.

I went out and grabbed a sandwich, drove back to Toronto's facility and, finally, some 90 minutes after the team had finished working out, Halladay was finishing up. The rest of the Jays had a free afternoon and plans. Halladay had a weight room and lifting.

"I want to be a part of this team making that push," Halladay told me after morning had faded into afternoon as we talked the one subject he always came back to: winning. "It becomes important for any player. Your priorities change. When you come up, you want to establish yourself. Now, after you've been around awhile, all you want to do is win. And the shorter the window, you start getting a little anxious."

He was a big man, 6'6", and could be intimidating. His fastball sizzled. His presence dominated. But he also had one other weapon he utilized, one that not every big flamethrower will: his mind. Early in his Toronto career, after the Jays dispatched him back to the minors when he was still trying to establish himself, he sought out a man named Harvey Dorfman, who was a pioneer in the field of sports psychology.

It was Halladay's wife, Brandy, who actually gets credit. Browsing at a bookstore, she happened upon one of Dorfman's seminal books, The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement, and picked it up, thinking perhaps it would help boost her husband's confidence. He devoured it, became a Dorfman disciple and rocketed to superstardom shortly thereafter.

By the time he finished, he had thrown a whopping 67 complete games and 20 shutouts.


In his spare time he loved flying, and he purchased the ICON A5 only a few weeks ago that crashed:

His own kids older now, Halladay's return to the game this spring was viewed as the first step to what eventually would have become a more permanent role with the Phillies.

Instead, news of Halladay's death was sudden, stunning and horrible. And as it soaks in, I think back to Aumont, who remained with the Phillies through 2015, lived his dream of playing with Halladay and retired this summer after landing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

"When I get to Canada, that's all I hear, Halladay, Halladay, Halladay," Aumont, a Quebec native, told me on that long ago February morning. "Now I get to be in the same clubhouse with him. I've watched him since I was 15 years old. And now, five or six years later, you're together in the same clubhouse."

And I can't help but think back to the solitude of those spring mornings, Halladay hard at work, the horizon wide open, open to whatever he would make of it.

Around the memories, through the tears, a legacy now carries on in a wholly different way than ever intended.

      

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.