By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Braden Halladay, like most talented pitchers or hitters, can hear a voice in his head as he goes about his business.
Hall of Famer George Brett could hear the words of hitting guru Charlie Lau when he was in the batter’s box.
In the movie Bull Durham, Crash Davis talked to his own self in what Hall of Famer Paul Molitor called the most realistic scene in a baseball movie.
Braden Halladay, 17, can hear the voice of his former pitching coach, his father, Roy Halladay, who left us way too early in a Nov. 7 plane crash at the age of 40.
“When I am pitching and I make a mistake I can hear him saying things over and over,” said Braden from Odessa, Fla. “My father was encouraging, but sometimes brutally sarcastic as my pitching coach at times.
“Like I would throw an off speed pitch, lead with my elbow and my 40 MPHer pitch would hang out over the plate. My father would say ‘Stop babying it. Be a man. Throw it.’”
Braden says he still does it once in a while as most grade 11 pitchers do ... and he hears his father’s voice. Braden has memories when he is pitching, “little stupid things . . . like I’ll bounce a real bad one, I can hear him saying ‘nice one.’
“Your family never really leaves you. He’s still with us.”
Braden Halladay was a key part of the Calvary Christian Warriors as the Clearwater high school won the state championship last year. Now, in grade 11, Braden and the Warriors are off to a 2-0 start this spring.
Braden will also pitch for the Florida Burn Platinum and in October will make the trip to the Perfect Game World Wood Bat championship in Jupiter.
And next month, Braden Halladay, who was born in Toronto, will pull a Canada uniform over his head when the Canadian Junior Nation Team visits St. Petersburg. As long as rain does not change the schedule, Halladay will work the final innings against the Toronto Blue Jays March 17, following Ben Abram (Georgetown, Ont.), RHP Eric Cerantola (Oakville, Ont.) and Tate Dearing (White Rock, BC) to the mound. His second outing is March 24 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mom Brandi Halladay gave birth to Braden at 11:35 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2000 at Women’s College Hospital on University Avenue, all of 2.9 kilometres from the Rogers Centre.
Roy had last pitched for the Jays July 29 against the Seattle Mariners and had been demoted to triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 4. He made it back to be with Brandi and was in the room for Braden’s arrival.
How did it come to pass that the son of one of the Blue Jays’ best, most beloved pitchers wants to pitch for the Canadian Junior National Team?
“It kind of started last June in St. Marys when my dad was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame,” Braden said. Someone told Braden -- he can’t remember who -- that since that since he was born in Toronto he was able to pitch for Canada.
“This is something I wanted to do for a long time,” said Braden, who took the intuitive. He contacted Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Dec. 28, asked how he could reach Greg Hamilton and sent Hamilton an email.
“Coach Hamilton replied in either late December or early January,” Braden said. “My high school coach is on board with me pitching for Canada, as long as it won’t affect our school team. I’m really excited about the chance.”
Braden is No. 2 on the Calvary Christian staff behind LHP Nolan Hudi, who committed to TCU. (“Oh man, he loved my father,” Braden said.)
“Most weeks we play two games, some weeks three games,” Braden said. “The week prior to and the week of (the junior team arriving) we have district games. I’m assuming I’ll get a inning or two for Canada.”
The high school season is more important than an exhibition tour that the Canucks are on, however, they will be at The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches in Palm Beach, Fla. in April and the Dominican Republic this summer as the roster continues to evolve.
This spring the Warriors were undefeated in their exhibition schedule and are 2-0 in conference play. Halladay was the player of the game in the second game of the season, pitching five innings in a win over Countryside.
“I gave up two runs, one earned, struck out four, threw 60 pitches and allowed five hits -- they were a good hitting team,” said Braden, reciting the line which matched the box score from MaxPreps.com perfectly. He sounded like his father reciting his own line from a B game or a rehab outing.
How good is Braden Halladay, the son of the first-rounder and former Cy Young award winner? We asked a former scouting director, who saw Braden pitch in November.
"I want to say he’s 83-86 MPH, decent spin to his curve, knows how to pitch, looks like his dad's delivery, might be more in there," said the executive. "He’s got arm speed, now looking for strength at 6’ 2" 155 lbs. He won’t be over his head."
Braden either attended camps or played in on-campus tournaments at Duke, Wichita State, Florida and Central Florida.
On Dec. 9 he committed to the Penn State Nittany Lions.
“Some schools the coaches are more like celebrities, but at Penn State the coaches were so welcoming, Penn State has the perfect small town feel and a big campus,” Braden said. “I have an opportunity to go in and compete for a job right away.
“Believe me, I am savoring every minute of high school, but I can’t wait to move on to the next level.”
Calvary Christian went 30-0 to win the Class 4A state title last season. The Clearwater school beat Pensacola Catholic 11-1 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, becoming the first Pinellas County team to win state since Dunedin in 2008. Last year Halladay was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA and two saves in 14 games, making four starts. He walked eight and struck out 21 in 23 1/3 innings.
In St. Marys, Roy Halladay asked former teammate Pat Hentgen to watch Braden throw a bullpen on one of the Hall of Fame mounds. And then the two former Cy Young award winners helped dissect a video on Braden.
The father spoke to the son that day.
And the son will still be hearing the father’s voice this season.