Selfless Halladay defined by tireless work ethic

Selfless Halladay defined by tireless work ethic

Roy Halladay walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards drenched in sweat, wearing an expression of exhaustion in the hours before a September game in Baltimore. The Blue Jays' ace looked like he had just finished flipping oversized tires in the stadium parking lot amidst Maryland's fatiguing humidity.

This was not all that unusual of a scene -- Halladay's workout routine during his playing days bordered on legendary -- except for one important bit of detail. This was the final day of the 2008 regular season, and the pitcher had no more starts left on the schedule. His next outing would be Opening Day, seven months in the future.

"Roy, you're done!" yelled one of his teammates.

Halladay glared in his direction, continuing on with his pregame program.

There are countless Halladay tales that could be told, and it's unfortunate that today is the day to tell them. Heartbreaking news spread on Tuesday that the retired pitcher had died following a plane crash off the Florida coast. Halladay was 40. It was a shame that injuries robbed him of a full career. It is even more crushing that Halladay's wife, Brandy, their two sons and their family and friends will be robbed of him enjoying a full life.

"He was the guy that you aspired to be," former Blue Jays teammate John McDonald said on Tuesday night. "The family part of Doc that I got to see, I just loved. And then you see this other side, the competitor and the dedication to his craft. I mean, there's such parallels between the professional Doc and the dad Doc. He seemed to want to be amazing at everything.

"I remember thinking, 'It's awesome seeing both sides of this person and getting to be around him and wanting to figure out, how am I going to be later on in life? Can I be that good? Can I be that good of a dad?'"

Halladay's Blue Jays career

I had the honor of chronicling Halladay's final five seasons in Toronto, where he embodied everything a team would want in a player.

There was, of course, the incredible production of a pitcher at the height of his skills. Beyond that, though, there was the selfless leader off the field. Halladay and his wife were consistently involved in charity work in Toronto. For many home games, he'd host kids from the Hospital for Sick Children and make a point to pay them a visit, even if he was pitching that day.

In spring 2006, Halladay signed a three-year contract extension with the Blue Jays -- two seasons before he would have been a free agent. Making as much money as possible on the open market was not his priority. Doc wanted to bring a World Series to Toronto.

"Even if he dominated and did really well, it wasn't enough if we lost," McDonald said.

Pedro on Halladay's passing

Halladay led by example with his tireless work ethic. The pitcher is the only player in my dozen years as a beat reporter who would immediately look for a clock when asked if he had a few spare minutes to talk. It was not that Halladay did not want to discuss pitching -- he loved to talk about his craft -- but that his routine was so scheduled that he needed to respond with a specific time.

In 2006, when I was fresh out of college and learning my way around the Blue Jays' beat, I approached Halladay at the Spring Training complex to set up an interview for the next morning.

"Sure," Doc replied. "I'll be here at 5 a.m."

Halladay waited for my face to contort into frustration, then smirked.

"I'll talk to you at 8," Halladay added before heading to the practice mounds.

"You knew he was a good player, but you saw why," McDonald said. "You saw the mental side of what he wanted to do on the field, the physical side of what he prepared to do on the field and how that came together in a mindset of just wanting to win."

Flying was always in the back of Halladay's mind, too.

Long after many games had ended in Toronto, Halladay would walk out to the field inside Rogers Centre and fly one of his remote-control planes under the dome's dark rafters. While writers typed away in the press box, his small airplane would buzz around the ballpark. He enjoyed talking about his dad's career as a corporate pilot and expressed how -- once the whole baseball thing was over -- he'd be getting his pilot's license, too.

In October 2006, one of Halladay's close friends, former pitcher Cory Lidle, died in a plane crash in New York. When reached for comment by phone that night, Halladay politely declined, expressing that the news had hit him too hard. More than a decade later, it was Halladay's former teammates and friends who had a text thread going in the wake of the tragedy that claimed the pitcher.

"It's you realizing, what do you say to each other?" McDonald said. "How do you console each other when you're crushed by the loss of a friend?"

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.