Sandberg reflects on Halladay's work ethic
Roy Halladay threw nearly 40,000 pitches over his 16-year major-league career. (AP)
Roy Halladay is coming to a YMCA near you.
At his retirement press conference Monday in Orlando, Halladay discussed the factors that led to him ending his major-league career, as well as his strategy to keep his competitive juices flowing.
"I'm trying to find a 35-and-over basketball league," Halladay said. "My wife's already shaking her head."
The ultimate competitor, Halladay these last two years was stripped of the abilities that led him to two Cy Young awards and remarkable success from 2002-11.
And contrary to common belief, it wasn't his shoulder. It was his back.
"One of the major factors was, there's been stuff written about shoulders and stuff. I've been throwing to my boys, and my shoulder feels as good as it ever has," said Halladay, who missed nearly four months in 2013 after shoulder surgery. "Unfortunately, I can't get them out, but it feels good.
"But the major issue for me is, as I mentioned to some of the media last spring, was my back really became an issue for me. I have two pars fractures, an eroded disk between the L4 and L5 [vertebrae], and there is a significant setback in there to where the nerves are being pinched, and really, it's just made it hard to pitch with the mechanics I want to pitch with.
"So over the last two seasons, I've had to change some things, do some things different to be able to throw the ball, and unfortunately, that's led to some shoulder issues. But the big thing has really been the back."
And at this point for Halladay, it's a quality-of-life issue. He wants to be able to spend time with his family and not worry about shooting pains and aches in his back.
"Speaking with doctors, they feel like at this point, if I can step away and take some of that high-level pressure off of it, it will hopefully allow me to do some regular things and help out with the kids' teams.
"But I want to be active. I want to continue to do things I enjoy doing, spend time with my family. The biggest thing is I'm trying to avoid surgery. They feel like we can address a lot of things by injections, by physical therapy.
"... I didn't feel like I could pitch at the level that I wanted to and felt like I owed to organizations I was going to play for. So we took a lot of time making the decision, but I really feel like it's the right decision for us, and it makes a lot of sense for us. We'll improve quality of life and give me a chance to hopefully not ruin my kids."
For an athlete as cerebral as Halladay, retirement may seem like a rocky transition. How does a man with an insatiable appetite for competition fill the void? Normally he'd be working out right now -- "As much as I worked out, I'm not going to miss it," he said -- but now he needs to find a different outlet.
"For a second it's a little bit of panic, and then it kind of sets in, OK, that's right, I'm retiring now, and it's actually a very peaceful feeling," Halladay said.
To Halladay, sticking around wasn't worth it. It probably wouldn't have satisfied him because the sad reality is that he wasn't all that competitive his final two seasons.
"You're trying to give everything you can, but there is something holding you back," he described of his final two seasons. "That was a challenge for me. Like I said, that was a major factor in why we decided this was the right time is because I want to be able to give everything to myself that I can. I felt like this was a point where I really couldn't do that anymore. I couldn't give them what I wanted to. So from that standpoint, we knew it was the right time.
"I'm looking forward to it. My family's looking forward to it. I had to stop my wife from cracking the champagne this morning, but we're definitely excited. It's something we're really looking forward to. Like I said, we've been very blessed, very fortunate. Baseball has given us a lot. It was a tremendous run, tremendous experience, something I'll never forget."