A day in the life of Roy Halladay:
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The street lights are on but they shine on few cars this early in a city sleeping in during March break.
The 7-Eleven store is full of workers gassing up -- outside with unleaded, inside with burritos, doughnuts and Red Bull -- for the drive to begin their work day.
There isn't a car on Old Coachman Road leading to the players' entrance.
"Oh, Mr. Halladay is here," said Jim, the security guard.
There are three cars in the lot, one belonging to Jim, one black BMW belonging to the former Blue Jays right-hander, now a member of the Phillies.
"I got in about 5:30, left the house around 4:45," Halladay said later. "I come down Highway 19, instead of turning right on to Main for Dunedin, I go over the bridge. Most mornings (Jays trainer) George Poulos honks at me."
It's the day after Halladay threw a bullpen session. His previous start was on Saturday in Lakeland. His next is Thursday.
Halladay lifts weights, concentrating on agility, and rides the stationary bike.
"I was so excited the day the deal went through," said minor-league coach Roly de Armas, who was on Jim Fregosi's Jays staff in 2000. "I phoned my father and told him: 'He'll be in our place the next day at 5:30 a.m.'
"He wasn't because they did the press conference in Philly. The next day I got in about 8:45, 'Hey Doc, welcome, good to see you again.' "
The sun rises on Clearwater.
The Phillies clubhouse opens. Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum are on CMT back-to-back on one TV.
Gorman Heimueller, the Phillies' minor-league pitching co-ordinator, shows up looking for Halladay, who is booked to speak to Phillies minor-league pitchers.
"I'm half Canadian," Heimueller says.
He played in Eston, Sask. where he wed his "best half" Lee Ann, and pitched in Red Deer, Alta. in 1977, which is where the Oakland Athletics found him.
Halladay begins the walk between the minor-league diamonds, stopping to sign autographs. Someone yells "Picture! Stop for a picture!"
Halladay rolls his eyes, turns and sees an eight-year-old in a Phillies jacket. He goes back to pose.
Halladay passes Richie Ashburn Field as Ernie Whitt, the former Blue Jays catcher, assembled a group of catchers to work on throwing and popups. Whitt is the catching co-ordinator.
Heimueller introduces Halladay to the 60 pitchers in the weight room as "arguably the best pitcher in the game."
"I'm not very good at speaking, guys, so bear with me," Halladay begins.
The subjects of the day are work ethic and the mental aspect of pitching. He gives his history to teenagers who don't know it, including Phillipe Aumont of Gatineau, Que., Edmonton's Steven Inch, plus B.C. pitchers Scott Mathieson of Langley, Colin Kleven of Kamloops and Chris Kissock of Fruitvale.
Halladay tells of his first-round selection in 1995, making the big leagues -- leaving out how he almost threw a no-hitter in his second start -- his struggles in 2000, how he still holds the record for the highest ERA (10.64 in 672/3 innings) and being sent to class-A Dunedin.
"It was a reality check," Halladay said. "I made a decision if I made the majors or not. I wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I'd given every thing. I was going to re-dedicate myself."
Halladay ticked off examples, working hard in pitcher's fielding practice, paying attention when coaches speak, getting your rest, staying away from drinking.
He said he was lucky to have Pat Hengten as a role model.
"You hear in the minors: 'Oh, that's eye wash,' if a guy is working hard," Halladay said. "I tried to do everything I was supposed to do, but you have to do it for yourself. Do not cut things short. You don't have to run the quickest 60, fastest mile or lift the most. You have to be consistent."
As for the mental aspect, Halladay told pitchers how much the book The Mental ABCs of Pitching by Harvey Dorfman helped him and how he carries a copy with him.
"If you can find it, buy it," Halladay said.
The room was silent, You couldn't even hear anyone breathing.
"Your focus should be making the next pitch, then the next pitch," Halladay said. "You all have ability or you wouldn't be here. You have a short window to play so it is important you make the most. If that means passing on fun things for an extra 30-40 minutes of a workout, you should work out."
Halladay tells his captive audience that they will know they've done things the right way.
Halladay takes questions.
What about when a feel pitch comes and goes? Halladay says his cutter at times "would go away for a month."
When his cutter was working he would take a ball and trace his fingers on it.
"Is your thumb underneath, slightly to the side?" Halladay said. "I jot it down."
What if he goes four innings instead of working eight or nine?
"When I was young, my post-game was the same," Halladay said. "I learned to listen to my body. If I throw 120 pitches, I'm not doing the same if I lasted only a few innings. No sense punishing yourself with running after a bad game. Watch video for half an hour."
How many starts a season is he 100%? Halladay guesses five.
Halladay repeats the saying how a starter is assured five good and five bad starts ... it's what he does in the other 25 which determines how good he is.
"Some days you go out with nothing, you may give up four or five but they'll never say you've gave up," Halladay said.
Passing Whitt a second time, a shy young righty named Jesus Sanchez approaches.
"Sir, you said after a bad start to concentrate on one thing, what if nothing is working?"
Halladay gives a six-minute answer.
Halladay shags in left and shows pitchers his grips between shagging flies during batting practice.
"The new guy? Oh, he has an outside chance of making the team," Jayson Werth says jokingly.
Halladay puts on his batting gloves, all the while trying not to smile, and heads to the batting cage to hit.
Halladay comes out to run 12 poles. He jogs to the first gap, sprints to the other gap and walks to the foul line. He repeats.
"I can beat him in running," says an almost embarrassed Mathieson, "not at any of that other stuff. He kicks my butt. He kicks everyone's butts."
Halladay confirms Antonio Bastardo, Yohan Flande and Mathieson left him half a poll behind in the two-mile run.
Then, there is the Phillie Run, consisting of running a rectangular route. One side consists of shuffling as a coach tosses a ball the pitcher has to pick up, then a sprint, more shuffles and backpedaling.
"We do five minutes one way, five the other way, everyone is gasping," Mathieson said.
Aumont remembers his first Phillie Run.
"Guys were telling me I'd quit," Aumont said. "I said: 'No, I'm not quitting,' I might not be the fastest, but I'm not quitting."
Mathieson saw Halladay do it for the first time.
"Roy did it seven minutes, and went another seven," Mathieson said. "Then he did his bullpen."
Mathieson is shaking his head back and forth in amazement as if he is watching the final volley at Wimbledon.
Halladay is in the dugout as the Phillies play the Tampa Bay Rays.
Halladay heads for home.
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee says there is a reason why some starters have long careers at a high level.
"Halladay got where he is by working hard, to stay there he's going to be a solid worker day in, day out," Dubee said.
Dubee is amazed at Halladay's binders. One lists his workouts, number of pitches thrown in a game, a bullpen session or long toss, how many minutes lifting and how much he ran.
He has another book on hitters he began keeping seven years ago and what pitches he threw.
"He holds himself accountable," Dubee said. "I don't think he wants to look and find a blank page."
Or worse for Halladay: Look in the mirror and not know he'd given everything.