Elliott: The Halladays come for one more visit to Rogers Centre
By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Roy Halladay lined up like many others on Monday night.
He went to Gate 9 at the Rogers Centre and found window 44.
Name? Asked the person behind the window.
“Roy Halladay please,” said Roy Halladay’s father.
The Blue Jays employee handed over the ducats.
This was one day after the late Roy Halladay, Jr. had been inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Poppa Halladay and his wife Linda had arrived from upstate to New York to Toronto for one more look at the park where his son pitched for 12 glorious seasons.
Also on the Cooperstown-Toronto trip were Roy’s mom named Linda as well, his oldest sister Merinda and her wife Kelly, Merinda’s daughter Kaylee and husband Tyler. Sister Heather, who didn’t have a passport spent Monday in New York state, set up a meeting with Merinda. Late in Monday’s game the scoreboard flashed a shot of the seven Halladays and then panned to No. 32. Nicely done by the Blue Jays. Subtle but appreciative.
I sent a text to Merinda saying that I was wearing a grey Wyoming Cowboys football jacket with my name on the chest for easy identification.
Merinda’s return text read “I’ll be wearing a black Blue Jays jersey with my name on my back.” We found each other behind section 124. She was wearing a black No. 32 with HALLADAY across the back.
Papa Halladay wanted to stay in the Marriot Hotel with a view facing the field. Why a view of the field? Merinda guessed it was because of opening day 2004 ... the last time that Merinda was in the building. Roy started and went 6 2/3 innings allowing six runs in a 7-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
“After the game Roy took the whole family onto the field,” Merinda said seated in section 124. “My daughter was eight at the time. The whole family tried to throw tennis balls at our hotel room window. No one made it.”
Just then Kelly interjected “You should know that the whole family is competitive.”
“That night we took turns making paper air planes out of hotel note pads and any paper we could find,” Merinda said. “Everyone tried to throw their plane out the window to be the first one to get it to sail onto the outfield. The planes all wound up in the seats. Not one made it.”
It was a competition ...
Like the time they went to the Florida State Fair. Merinda was three years older than her brother and played hoops for the Idaho State Bengals earning most improved honours in 1993-94. One game she would like to forget was Idaho State’s trip east to play the famed UCONN Huskies program, a 91-50 loss to UCONN.
“My shot needed some work,” said the 6-foot-3 footer. So, the shot was overhauled by the shooting gurus in Idaho. And then the brother challenged his sister to a game.
“They gave you a rack of basketballs and 30 seconds to see who could get the most balls into the hoop,” Merinda said. “My shot was OK then. I won the first game. Roy said ‘Again!’ I won the next time. ‘Again.’ Again I won. We must have played 10 games and I won them all ... then Roy said let’s go over here to pitching machine.
“He threw harder than I did. Roy won.”
Her brother would also win water balloon throwing contests in the pool.
“Everyone knew his regimen on game day -- how he didn’t talk -- once when we were staying at their house, I got up early to go to the bathroom, I walked down the hall and there he was just leaving for the park,” Merinda remembered. “And it was a day he was starting. I didn’t know what to do. I stopped and said ‘Sorry.’”
What was his post-game reaction? “Oh he laughed at me,” Merinda said.
Competitive the Halladay family?
Wearing a white HALLADAY Toronto No. 32, Kelly tells the story of a visit to Roy’s house where Roy had a Nintendo system set up with “All the best games of the 1980s.”
“One would beat the other to get the high score when some one wasn’t watching, then the other would set a new record,” Kelly said. “Everyone had Nintendo thumbs.”
Besides Philadelphia and Toronto, Merinda has visited Boston, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle from her home in Pocatello Id. Merinda loved to hear the stories, the games her brother would tell her he and his teammates played. No, not the complete games.
“They would go out for a run and their goal was to figure out how to sneak into the football stadiums next to the ballpark,” she recalled. “Or to at least run across the field without being caught.”
Fellow Blue Jays No. 1 pick Chris Carpenter narrated a video before the presentation of Roy Halladay’s plaque. Carpenter and Halladay were best of friends.
“I appreciated what Chris said, we all did,” Merinda said. “The video highlighted some of the things Roy did on the mound. He was a hard worker with a flare for fun.”
How has the old yard changed since 2003? Well, it is now Rogers Centre rather than SkyDome. And there is brother’s huge number 32 hanging from the rafters in centre field.
Heather Halladay, without an updated passport could not make the last-minute trip. Her Cooperstown highlight: “Seeing my brother being inducted and seeing his name on things was very cool. The experience was overwhelming but so amazing.”
And the lowlight was “That he wasn’t there to celebrate his great accomplishment. Watching my dad watch the video clip of my brother was heartbreaking.”
Four years ago Merinda started the Phoenix Management firm which gives at-home service for people with intellectual difficulties. How does she explain her emotions and her feelings of her family’s time in Cooperstown?
“It was a bittersweet end,” Merinda said. “This is what he knew. His goal was always to play in the majors -- even in high school. We went to games as a family. I’m sure there were some times I didn’t want to go.”
“We were not really ready for how quickly all this moved,” Merinda said. “At some point the girls (mom Linda and sister Heather) will visit where he pitched and did well. We’ll spend time and soak it all in.”