Halladay will have lasting impact on young Phils

Late pitcher was serving as a mental skills coach to Minor Leaguers at time of death

Halladay will have lasting impact on young Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- Tom Windle scrolled through his text messages the other day. He stopped on Roy Halladay's name.

He tapped into the conversation and reminisced.

"It's really encouraging to read through them," the Phillies' prospect said Sunday. "He's a detailed guy, and every message you can tell that he meant it. They really helped me move forward this year when I was at a low point. I'll save them."

Halladay died last Tuesday when his ICON A5 aircraft crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. His memorial service will be at 4 p.m. ET this Tuesday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. Halladay, who was 40, spent nearly every weekday since the spring at the Carpenter Complex, just a few hundred feet from Spectrum Field, beginning his second career as a mental skills coach.

"He had so much potential in the role," Phillies mental skills coach Geoff Miller said. "He didn't have any formal training, and yet from the moment I sat down with him, I thought his instincts and insights were on a very high level. He had these natural gifts of insight and empathy and humility that I think would have made him a big star in this field."

Halladay treated his second career like his first. He prepared for one-on-one sessions with players like he prepared for starts against the Yankees. He fiddled with note-taking formats and templates on his iPad like he experimented with grips.

"He sunk his whole being into the position, making it the best he could make it," Phillies rehab pitching coach Ray Burris said.

Players could not believe that a Cy Young Award winner called them, texted them and took them on day trips because he cared so much.

"He was there for everybody," Phillies prospect Jacob Waguespack said.

The Phillies hope to carry Halladay's belief system forward, even though he is not there to deliver it.

"It'll be a certain way of us putting things into our program," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. "But our players will know where it came from. Our players will know why we're doing it. It'll kind of be our way of an ongoing tribute to who he was and how he came in here and helped us."

Roy's second calling

Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2000, the highest single-season mark for a pitcher with more than 50 innings. Toronto demoted him to Class A Dunedin the following season.

Halladay questioned his future in baseball. Fortunately, his wife, Brandy, picked up Harvey Dorfman's "The Mental ABC's of Pitching." Halladay devoured the book and became Dorfman's disciple. He reconstructed his mental game, like he rebuilt his delivery, to become one of the game's greatest pitchers.

Halladay wanted to help Phillies prospects like Dorfman helped him.

"This wasn't just, 'I don't know what to do with my life and I think this would be cool,'" Miller said. "It was, 'I really benefited from this, Harvey left this lasting impression on me and I want to be able to help others the way he helped me, and what do I need to learn so I can do it better?'"

Halladay's Major League career

Halladay moved into his office at the Carpenter Complex in April. He dropped off his boys at school in the morning. He worked individually with players throughout the day, both in his office and on the mound. He gave group presentations, his latest coming a day before he died. He left in the afternoon to be with his family.

"His program was so precise and so detailed," Phillies director of Minor League operations Lee McDaniel said. "Having him here was just a thrill for the players. We had a couple players from the Draft come in this year, just wide-eyed. They couldn't believe that he was here."

Halladay purchased his own office furniture, equipment and supplies. It included a zero-gravity massage chair, which cost thousands of dollars. Players could schedule time to use it.

"That was probably one of my most memorable days," Phillies prospect Austin Davis said. "He had just gotten a sandwich from downstairs in the cafeteria when I went up there. Roy Halladay is talking to me about pitching and baseball. He's eating a $2 sandwich and I'm in a thousand-dollar, zero-gravity massage chair. I feel like we're in opposite spots here. It was pretty awesome. He's a Hall of Famer, but he's buying a massage chair so he's more accessible to guys."

Halladay purchased copies of Dorfman's books and Miller's book, "Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game -- In Baseball and in Life," both in English and Spanish. He handed them to players as needed.

But he went a step further than that.

"Roy wanted an audio version of at least one of the books," Miller said. "He went and paid someone to go to a sound studio and read aloud every chapter of 'The Mental Game of Baseball' so he could have it as an audiobook. He actually gave some of those recordings to players."

Halladay's Phillies career

Miller told Halladay one day that he needed to hire somebody fluent in Spanish.

"Well, what if I show up for Spring Training next year and I'm fully bilingual?" Halladay said.

Miller could not believe it.

"Just the idea of that and the willingness to try and do that," Miller said. "That was just how he attacked every problem. He was going to work on it until he had it."

Doc connected

Halladay built relationships with players. One afternoon he showed up in a limousine loaded with pizzas to take a few players to a Rays game at Tropicana Field. He took players fishing. He took them to the airport, showing them the airplanes he loved.

"He wanted people to experience things that he enjoyed, but that he also thought they would enjoy," Windle said.

Windle, whom the Phillies acquired from the Dodgers in the Jimmy Rollins trade in December 2014, got sent from Double-A Reading to Class A Advanced Clearwater in May to "reset" himself. He worked with Halladay nearly every morning. They discussed specific chapters of Dorfman's "The Mental ABC's of Pitching" that he had assigned as homework. Halladay watched Windle's bullpen sessions, boosting his confidence as needed.

Halladay texted Windle one day, saying he planned to show him his changeup.

"I think you're going to throw a nasty changeup with your big hands and arm slot," Halladay texted. "It's going to be nasty."

"I've never thrown a nasty changeup in my life, but this guy has the confidence I can throw one," Windle said. "Now I throw it. I like it. Not that I throw it all the time, but I can throw a changeup now and it's the Roy Halladay changeup."

Elniery Garcia, who was finishing up an 80-game suspension for using a banned substance, told Burris this summer that he wanted to play catch with Halladay.

"Do you think he will?" he said.

Halladay played catch with Garcia, making his day.

"Roy was just thrilled about it, too," Burris said. "He was like a kid in a candy store. The spirit that he brought. The energy. Just something like that -- how far it goes."

Phillies remember Roy Halladay

Halladay once texted Waguespack while he was away with his son's baseball team, telling him that he still planned to email him about his next start. Then there was the time Waguespack and Halladay kept missing their regular session. Waguespack had to chart pitches one night at Spectrum Field, so Halladay showed up and joined him in the stands. They chatted for three innings before he left.

A scout asked Waguespack who that was. He could not believe it.

The impact

Windle returned to Reading in June a different pitcher, both physically and mentally. It showed. He had a 9.31 ERA in 11 appearances before he met Halladay. He had a 3.05 ERA in 25 appearances afterward.

"The biggest thing was that he gave me a plan to be comfortable on the mound and know who I was out there," Windle said. "When it came time to go back to Reading, it was almost like he set every plan for me so that I didn't need him anymore."

Davis entered the season feeling pressure because of 40-man roster implications, but he thrived, posting a 2.60 ERA in 42 appearances with Clearwater and Reading.

"He talked about having a bigger perspective of reality," Davis said. "In spring, they showed the no-hitter in the playoffs and his perfect game. I'm sure people always asked him, 'When you get into that eighth and ninth inning, you must feel that pressure.' He's like, 'No.' His perspective of life and reality is so much bigger than just baseball and just those moments. Those moments are just fun. That was the biggest thing for me.

"When I got called up to Reading and pitched in some big situations, I can think back to that conversation. No matter how much pressure you think you're in, it's nothing in the grand scheme of life, knowing that who you are as a person isn't really depending on whether you get this perfect game or get this save or get this guy out. That is constant and being constant is why you're able to go and be successful."

Every player seemed to learn something from Halladay. It would not be a surprise to hear a big leaguer in 20 years say he learned something from one of Halladay's pupils.

Halladay would have gotten a kick out of that.

"I could see him light up when he was working with players and when he knew he had just done something well," Miller said. "It's funny because it was probably the only place he was different as a pitcher. You never knew what he was thinking as a pitcher. There was never a change in expression. But he couldn't help but be proud of himself and he couldn't help but be excited for the people that he was talking to. You could just see it on his face that he really truly enjoyed what he was doing and he really truly cared for everyone he came in contact with."

The Phillies locked up Halladay's office last Tuesday, hours after they received the news about his death. They noticed a few fresh marks in the drywall. Halladay occasionally fired up his drones in there.

He was one of a kind.

"We have the information, but it'll never be the same," Miller said. "It wasn't the information. It was the man giving it. I'm sure we'll always be able to learn from him. And I'm sure there will always be something missing."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.