Elliott: Halladay could burn rubber

Texas Rangers’ Kevin Mench lined a ball off Hall of Famer Roy Halladay’s left shin breaking his leg on July 8 in 2005.

Texas Rangers’ Kevin Mench lined a ball off Hall of Famer Roy Halladay’s left shin breaking his leg on July 8 in 2005.

By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

There are kinds of sights and smells at the ball park.

From onions to bratwursts. From freshly cut grass to pine tar.

Ted Williams asked about another smell when his golf cart rolled into the infield during the 1999 all-star game at Fenway Park.

As Williams shook hands with the all-stars who enveloped him, he asked Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire: “Do you smell the burnt wood of the bat when you hit the ball just so?”

Roy Halladay gave baseball a different smell.

Strength and conditioning coach Donovan Santas remembers Halladay pumping furiously on the stationary bike and calling him over at the Bobby Mattick Complex. It was at the end of the 2005 season. Kevin Mench of the Texas Rangers had lined a ball off Halladay’s left shin derailing the Cy Young award contender with a broken leg on July 8.

Halladay was using a walking boot due to his broken Tibia. He could remove the boot to ride the bike but otherwise used the boot until the bone progressed in healing. He was restricted to the Life Fitness XXL upright 95CI bike after he removed the boot and rode it so hard (near the maximum level of resistance) and so long.

All those muscles used to jog, lift weights and climb stairs had a sole purpose -- peddling the bike.

“He’d ride the bike for an hour and then he’d call me ‘Donovan come here ...’ The belt would start smoking,” Santas said. “Typically after an hour the rubber drive belt on the bike would start to smoke and burn. There would also be a puddle of water under the bike of sweat.

“He didn’t break it, but the room sure smelled like burnt rubber.”

Halladay finished his season with a 2.41 ERA -- the best in the American League. However, pitching only 141 2/3 innings in 19 starts he did not meet the required 162 innings. And Halladay was the first to say he did not deserve it. The AL ERA title went to Cleveland’s Kevin Millwood with a 2.86 mark.

Next were Johan Santana (2.87) of the Minnesota Twins, Mark Buehrle (3.12) of the Chicago White Sox, Jarrod Washburn (3.20) of the Los Angeles Angels and Twins Carlos Silva (3.44).

Kelvim Escobar was part of the Jays three-headed monster -- the only organization with three potential No. 1s under the age of 25, along with Chris Carpenter.

“We came up together, we always worked out together,” Escobar said. “The thing I remember the most was his dedication and preparation was unmatched

“He pitched so many great games for us. He wouldn’t let them take him out, he wouldn’t come out of game. It was his game.”

Halladay started and finished 67 games, leading the American League seven seasons, including five straight.

Santas and the Blue Jays future Hall of Famer met for the first time in middle July of 2001. At the end of the season former No. 1 pick Billy Koch, Jay Inouye (rehab trainer), Billy Wardlow (minor league equipment manager) and Halladay were regulars at the complex. It was the last year of the old facility.

“We had fun tearing it down, Koch was throwing balls off the building and Roy ... Roy was working out,” Santas said.

The new Mattick complex was completed in 2003. Santas and Halladay worked out year round and spent time together fishing.

Former Phillies coach Rich Dubee called Santas with news that a plane had gone down off New Port Richey, Fla. on Nov. 7, 2017. Santas’ wife works for the Phillies and received a phone call from Paul Fournier, the strength and conditioning coordinator.

The question was being asked all over North America. “Is it him? Have you heard from Doc?”

“I knew immediately it was his plane,” Santas said.

Soon, everyone else did too.