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Guest post: I was a Roy Halladay fanboy

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Our friend Chris Jones shares his thoughts about HLHIII.

Philadelphia Phillies  Photo Day Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Our friend Chris Jones, TGP’s former game thread master and current king of Phillies gifs, asked if he could write a post about Roy Halladay. All the way back in 2009, Chris was my first Phillies Twitter friend, and we bonded over our mutual love of Roy. Roy Halladay sealed our friendship, and so I’m glad I can share his words with you today.

On November 7, 2017, news leaked that Roy Halladay’s plane had crashed and there was one confirmed death. The agonizing hours between that leak and the confirmation that it Roy was dead were gut wrenching. Even now, like everyone else, I am still trying to process this. Process why such terrible things can happen to the best people. Roy Halladay undoubtedly left this world far too soon, and as hard as it will be, I want to express exactly what he meant to me.

If you know me at all, you know I’m a homer, through and through. It’s Philly vs the world and if you aren’t on my team, I want nothing to do with you. I am part of the microcosm of the baseball world that does not enjoy Bartolo Colon. (Yes, I’m that guy.) This was non-negotiable, until the first time I saw Roy Halladay pitch in Toronto. Only a fool couldn’t see why he was nicknamed “Doc”; the way he picked batters apart with surgical precision was mesmerizing. There was no fighting it. I was a Roy Halladay fanboy.

During the Phillies’ meteoric rise from trash to treasure, we were all adapting to the Phillies contending for the best players available at the trade deadline. First, it was their failed pursuit of CC Sabathia. Then, it was their successful acquisition of Cliff Lee. This was uncharted territory for most Phillies fans. So when the rumors started to swirl that not only were the Phillies going after Roy, but he wanted to come to Philly, I was beside myself.

The best pitcher in baseball, my favorite pitcher, wanted to be on my favorite team—the team I live and die by. It was almost impossible to contain my excitement, I remember furiously texting my friends, most who don’t follow the sport as closely as I do, trying to convey just what a big deal this was. I distinctly remember the Phillies playing the Blue Jays one night when there was a long rain delay; the Jays were clinging to a small lead and Roy came in to close out the game when play resumed. I knew we had no shot. And we didn’t. Now I get to turn that dread into excitement? Yes, please.

There are not many things that can get me to travel to DC. Quite frankly, I hate the area and would rather chuck myself into the Potomac before ever trying to park at Nationals’ Park. However, on opening day in 2010 I made the trip with several Phillies fans to watch Roy in person, for the first time, as a member of my favorite sports team.

Spoiler: he did not disappoint. 7 innings, 9 strikeouts, 1 earned run. Masterful. How would he follow that up? A complete game shutout against the Astros. Roy’s Phillies tenure was going as well as anyone could have hoped for. Little did we know what was ahead of us.

May 29th. A night most of Philadelphia was wrapped up in game1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was at a friend’s shore house trying to take a night away from sports for the most part. That is, until I checked the box score in the 5th inning. Tempering my excitement, I turned the game on. I was with a group of friends who mostly didn’t watch sports, but even they were glued to the TV.

“The 1-2 pitch. Hit toward third, Castro has it. Spins. Fires. A perfect game. Roy Halladay has thrown the second perfect game in Philadelphia Phillies’ history.”

The entire room exploded. I dropped to my knees and stared blankly at the TV, not knowing how to process what just happened. Roy was perfect. Roy is perfect. Roy is on my favorite sports team.

A lot was made of Roy never making it to the postseason. It had been his white whale. But it was almost a forgone conclusion that he would be going in 2010, as the Phillies built on their recent success with Roy leading the charge to a 97-65 season and 4th straight NL East crown. How did they wrap up that division crown? A complete game shutout on a rainy day in Washington, with Roy wrapping up the season on the same mound he’d kicked it off on. The entire team and city seemed to be happier that Halladay was getting his shot at the playoffs than they were about the team’s overall success. He was just that type of person. You wanted nothing but the best for him.

Since 2007, I’ve gone to every NLDS game 1. I made it a point. The atmosphere was intoxicating and never have I been more excited to kick off a postseason series than I was this one. It didn’t matter what team showed up that day to face the Phillies—Roy Halladay was starting. Good fucking luck.

Turns out, all the luck in the world wouldn’t help the Reds on this night. Around the 6th inning, Meech (@meechone) and I looked at each other with that “you see what I’m seeing?” look. Then I had to remind Meech of what he said in the first inning: “If Roy sets them down 1-2-3 in the first he’s throwing a no-no.”

Say it was coincidence if you want, but when he said it there was conviction behind it. We all know what happened next.

“He winds, the 0-2. Swing and a dribbler out in front of the plate. Ruiz out to get it, the throw from his knees. IT’S IN TIME AND IT’S A NO-HITTER. UNBELIEVABLE. RUIZ AND HALLADAY EMBRACE. [insert LA laughing]. AND THE PHILLIES AGAIN CELEBRATE AROUND ROY HALLADAY!”

For one night, Roy Halladay transformed me back into a jubilant child again. Not a care in the world. I just witnessed history. I remember people swarming the kiosks trying to get a game program as I levitated past them still in awe. I remember I almost instinctively called my Dad, a bumbling mess, as we shared that historic moment. I remember high-fiving complete strangers. I remember myself, Meech, and others in the parking lot after the game not wanting the night to end. It wasn’t a World Series win, but it felt like it.

What made all of this so much better is the adversity Roy endured on his way to the majors with Toronto. He had to rewire himself mentally to thrive in the game he loved—and thrive is a big understatement. He will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he has left a mark on this world beyond baseball for his work with children and big leaguers alike. He’s known for handing out copies of “The Mental ABC's of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement,” the book that helped him through his early struggles in the game.

Once Roy left the game behind, after his arm finally gave in to the beating 2,749.1 innings will do, Philadelphia got to know Roy the person. Roy the baseball player was stoic, intense, almost scary. Roy the retired family man and coach of his child’s baseball team was playful, fun(ner), and we couldn’t get enough. He went to the goddamn zoo with ZooWithRoy. His twitter account was an absolute joy to follow. With all the crap going on in the world, I always perked up when I’d see a random picture of Roy smiling and just enjoying life. He earned it.

My heart hurts for his family. He was responsible for so many memories in my life that I still think back to when I need a pick me up. In a world of milkshake ducks, Roy Halladay was as close to a perfect person as you can find. They say the good die young and what is done is done, but that’s not enough. The world lost a truly amazing person and, for me, this will take quite some time to truly heal.

Here’s to you, Roy. I hope you’re upstairs striking out God on a wicked 0-2 backdoor two-seamer.