Roy Halladay was 30 minutes late for his scheduled Q&A session with reporters at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
The temptation was to believe that maybe Halladay was squeezing in a quick workout in the Phillies’ weight room. That’s always the way it was for the two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher. At the ballpark, it was always business first.
The days of sweating it out in the weight room are over for Halladay now. Baseball is no longer his business. He apologized for his lateness and blamed it on traffic and a pileup of commitments. He then proceeded wax almost poetically about his four seasons with the Phillies before being honored by the club in a pregame tribute that included his throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Carlos Ruiz, the man who caught his perfect game and playoff no-hitter in 2010.
Halladay retired after 16 seasons and 203 wins in December. He said he was completely at peace with the decision. He mentioned that he attended the Tampa Bay Rays’ home opener with his sons and made a trip to Toronto to be feted by his original team earlier this season.
But coming to back to Philadelphia … well …
“Coming here is different because there’s so many unbelievable memories and experiences,” Halladay said. “I’ve got butterflies, I’ll admit it.
“I don’t know — there’s something about this place and something about Philadelphia. I was telling someone earlier that almost the entire first year I was here, I would sit on the bench and wonder how this was happening. The guys playing around me, it was surreal. A lot of that came rushing back pretty quick.”
Halladay won 40 games for two NL East championship teams in 2010 and 2011. Those were the days when Citizens Bank Park was always sold out and every seat was an electric chair. Halladay struggled with injuries in 2012 and 2013, the losses mounted and the crowds eventually thinned. The Phils are a last-place club this season and there were many empty seats when Halladay addressed the fans before Friday night’s game.
But Halladay’s message resonated.
“This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, playing in this city,” he said. “There is nothing in this world I would trade it for. Thank you very much.”
Halladay, 37, was the personification of intensity during his playing days. In retirement, he has softened, shown his personality and become almost playful. He likes to have fun on Twitter. He has earned his pilot’s license. He has helped coach his sons’ youth baseball teams.
“It’s different when you go from one lifestyle to another and trying to find out how you fit in, how you’re going to do things,” said Halladay, who spent every summer from 1995 to 2013 in professional baseball. “The first two weeks at home I asked my wife every day, ‘What are you doing today and what do you need me to do?’
“After two weeks she said, ‘Would you stop asking? Just plan your day and if I need something I’ll ask you.’ But it takes a while to get into that. So there’s been a lot of adjustments. But I’ve loved every second of it. I’ve had a blast. I’m looking forward to continuing it.”
Halladay revealed that once upon a time he harbored thoughts of working in a baseball front office, maybe even of being a general manager, after his playing days. He still has designs on staying in touch with the game, but it may be more as a consultant.
The story of Halladay’s career journey is well known. He was a first-round draft pick who rose to the majors quickly then was sent all the way back to Single A when his career hit the rocks. He changed everything, from his delivery to his mind-set, and climbed to the top of his profession. He has long credited sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman for helping him hone the mental edge needed to succeed.
Dorfman died in 2011, but his lessons live on in Halladay.
Now, Halladay would like to pass on those lessons. He said he was considering pursuing a psychology degree.
“It’s interesting to me,” Halladay said. “It’s been fun to see the other side of it, talk to guys who are going through the same things I have.
“I don’t know if it’s my calling, but I think it’s unique because I had a chance to go through almost everything. You know, from growing up, at times being pushed, struggling, not just a little bit, but a lot, and then starting to understand what’s going on, starting to understand what Harvey’s talking about, and really just trying to morph myself into what I was hearing, and I became that. So it’s unique to be able to go through all of those experiences and come out on the other end with that knowledge.
“You know, I could pretty well regurgitate anything Harvey ever said. But there are special circumstances, which is why I’d like to go to college. I just think that’s something that I can offer back to baseball — and working with players at all levels. Going home and just seeing what a mess youth baseball was was an eye-opener. I just want to make it a better game. And it’s been a lot of fun doing that already.”
Dr. Halladay already has his first pupil. He has spoken by phone with Phillies’ pitching prospect Jesse Biddle, a fellow first-round draft pick who hit some hard times in his development and required what GM Ruben Amaro Jr. called “a mental break” earlier this summer.
“He’s a good kid,” Halladay said. “It’s just exactly like me — exactly like me. We talk about simplifying things, about thinking about one pitch and having the calm focus to do one thing and think about only one thing. I think he’s starting to get there.
“But it’s not something where you can read the book and do it. Someone can’t tell you and you do it. You really have to live it. It has to be something you have to try and live.
“He’s doing better. I think he’s feeling better. But I think the hardest thing for people to realize is what they can and can’t control. I think they get caught up in that a lot. So, having him understand what’s in his control, I think has helped him.”
Halladay concluded his session with reporters by saying he had no regrets — other than not getting that elusive World Series ring. Many of his former Phillies teammates earned one in 2008, two years before he arrived.
“I was here for a great era of Phillies baseball and I was so excited to be part of that era,” he said. “I just wish I was here earlier.”