Pitcher Perfect

By IAN WILSON

He was a tireless workhorse who could wear out his coaches just as easily as he did opposing batters.

Two-time Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay – who died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday – made relentless preparation a hallmark of his all-star career, according to a former coach.

Bruce Walton, who served as the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen coach from 2002 to 2009, and pitching coach from 2010 to 2012, got to know Halladay very well in that time.

“My whole tenure with Toronto, Roy was on my team,” Walton told Alberta Dugout Stories at a baseball training camp at Calgary’s Coyote Den over the weekend.

“He was so consistent. Not for just one day, not for just one season … for 10 seasons. He didn’t miss a spot. I played catch with him every day and to see how focused he was on just playing catch, it was off the charts.”

Walton, who lives in Calgary and has spent time coaching at the Okotoks Dawgs baseball academy and with Sidearm Nation, described Halladay as a “freak” due to his work habits.

“HE WAS HARD TO COACH”

“That was a different type of coaching. He was very demanding. He was hard to coach,” recalled the 54-year-old Walton, who had to show up early to the ballpark on nights when ‘Doc’ was pitching.

“He wore me out. He physically wore me out, because it was non-stop. He used everybody that way.”

Shortly after Halladay – a first-round selection of the Blue Jays in 1995 – was traded to Philadelphia in 2009, Walton said he spoke with Phillies’ pitching coach Rich Dubee about the acquisition.

“He said, ‘Oh Doc, what do you do, sit there and watch?’ I said, ‘you don’t understand … be careful what you wish for.'”

Two months later, Walton received a call from Dubee complaining about how early he had to show up for work now that Halladay was in the rotation.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Walton also remembered a pitcher whose strong work ethic rubbed off on teammates.

Starter A.J. Burnett pitched for Toronto from 2006 to 2008. His colourful personality contrasted Halladay’s all-business approach. But Walton said Burnett learned a lot about bearing down from being around Halladay.

“He learned that from Doc. And when he learned that from Doc, he became a better pitcher.”

20171107_162259
Roy Halladay 2006 Topps Baseball Card

Over a 16-year major league career, Halladay won 203 games, pitched 67 complete games, recorded 2,117 strikeouts and posted an ERA of 3.38.

The Toronto Blue Jays released the following statement about Halladay’s passing:

“The Toronto Blue Jays organization is overcome by grief with the tragic loss of one of the franchise’s greatest and most respected players, but even better human being. It is impossible to express what he has meant to this franchise, the city and its fans. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Halladay was 40 years old. He is survived by his wife, Brandy, and their two children.

 

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