PHOENIX – In what qualifies as a remarkable event in the often me-first world of professional sports, Roy Halladay sought out reporters Friday evening to send a message to Phillies fans.
Halladay has struggled off and on with injuries for a year. He felt pain in his shoulder in his start on April 24, but continued to pitch. Last Sunday, he was hammered for nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. He went on the disabled list the next day and will have shoulder surgery in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the day after his 36th birthday.
Halladay approached reporters in the dugout at Chase Field shortly after manager Charlie Manuel’s daily press briefing. Speaking softly and with a hint of emotion in his voice, Halladay said the following:
“I've been thinking the last couple of days. I just felt like I should address the fans.
“I know there is a lot of mixed opinions on pitching, not pitching, all that kind of stuff. I know there are people who are disappointed about how I pitched the last two years. I know there are a lot of people who are very supportive. So, one, I just wanted to thank them for their support. And my heart goes out to all of the people who spend all of their money and go out to the games and don't get to see what they want to see.
“I know I'm not the whole team. There are still a lot of guys out there and it's a fun team to watch. But I feel bad that I'm missing the time that I am. I feel bad for the fans that I'm missing the time. It's tough. You feel an obligation to the organization, to your teammates, to the fans to try to go out and pitch. Especially on a competitive team that sells out. For me, that was a big factor. If I'm playing for a last-place team and there's things going on, you maybe speak up. But we have a chance to go win a World Series and we have sellouts and fans have expectations. You want to do everything you can to try to make it work. Really, that was a lot of the reason I tried to keep going. Like I said, I never really felt the pain.
“I just wanted to reach out to the fans, thank them for their support and apologize to the ones who pay the money and show up in the second inning and it's 9-0. I apologize to the fans that I won't be out there for three months. I don't feel like I have to apologize to the team because I think they know. I just want the fans to know that I'm thinking about them. I don't take that for granted. I don't take playing for Philadelphia for granted.”
Halladay, who makes $20 million a year with the Phillies, was asked when this all started weighing on his conscience.
“It bothered me last year. It bothered me this year,” he said. “Any time you go out there and pitch poorly. First and foremost, I felt bad for my team. I felt I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. And then you start to think about it and you think, ‘Man, all of these people are paying good money, they’re showing up and they’ve been so supportive over the years, and they’re not getting what they want either.’
“It’s just something you think about. Like I said, my teammates know I want to be out there. I feel like the fans are a very important part of it, too. It’s hard to explain how much you appreciate them when you come from places where you don’t have fans like that. I think it’s important to recognize them.
“I understand that some people are upset, and that’s fine, that’s a part of it. I’m not trying to sway their opinion. If they don’t like me, they don’t like me. That’s fine. I think they mean a lot to the organization, they mean a lot to Philadelphia. We couldn’t do what we do here without them spending the money to come see games. I think that sometimes gets overlooked in sports. They’re a big part of the team success.
“If I paid $60 and the team was down 9-0 when I showed up, I wouldn’t like me. But my heart goes out to them. And to my team. I just wanted to make sure they knew they’ve been a big part of everything and I’ve always appreciated their support.”
On the subject of finally giving in to injury, Halladay said: “It’s hard to swallow. But like I said, I’ve always tried to be optimistic. That’s what you try to focus on. It’s too easy to look at the bad stuff. The hard part is sometimes it’s things you can’t control, and I think you have to recognize that. This is one of those things where it got to the point where I couldn’t control it. And I had to get things taken care of.”