Baseball and all of its faithful followers were dealt a tragic blow this week. Retired pitcher Roy Halladay, who played on the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, passed away when his plane crashed. He was 40 years old. The entire Major League Baseball community came out and mourned a great player and great man. In the wake of such a tragedy, is there anything positive that can be salvaged? One thing is sure: everyone can learn from Roy Halladay as a person, if not as a baseball player.
Halladay was known for a few things over the course of his career: his nasty cutter, his intensity and his generosity. While I will never approach his pitching prowess, I, along with everyone else, should strive for generosity and intensity like his.
There are countless stories that detail Roy Halladay’s kindness. After particularly great outings in any sport, players sometimes give gifts to their teammates to thank them. While Christmas can bring new TVs to offensive linemen from quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor, a perfect game from Halladay was much more special. After his monumental achievement of a perfect game — one of 23 ever in the major leagues — Halladay bought everyone on the team a personalized watch, thanking each player and telling them that it was a team effort. Even players who didn’t appear in the game or weren’t at the stadium during it received one. This is just one of many stories that people have shared in order to commemorate him. He was nominated for the Roberto Clemente award, an award for charitable work, multiple times. Halladay also donated $100,000 from his Blue Jays contract to their charity, Jays Care, every year. His love for people, joy and charity was only matched by his love for the game.
Few pitchers have had a career like Halladay. It was a career not solely unique in prowess, but also in the journey as well. Roy Halladay was drafted in 1998 and immediately pitched well. He almost had a no-hitter in his second start ever. So how on Earth did he end up with the highest Earned Run Average in MLB history for pitchers who pitched at least 50 innings in a season in 2001? And how did he then end up winning the Cy Young Award twice, pitching a regular season perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs in the same season, and becoming a most-likely Hall of Famer? Grit. Pure grit and dedication. The man was a machine in his work ethic. He would work before games, after them and certainly during them. He trained endlessly, working out until he was so drenched in sweat that it seemed like it was raining outside. Most pitchers who fall as far and as quickly as Halladay did end up staying at the bottom. He made it back and reached the top.
His accomplishments as a person and a player were not easy. They came with hard work. Halladay taught many lessons to me and many other players and fans. His spirit will live on in those he taught and left behind.