By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
When Toronto used their first-round pick in order to select a 6-foot-6 high school right-hander out of Denver, Col. in 1995, few could have envisioned the type of impact he would end up leaving on the Blue Jays franchise, let alone the country they call home.
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame revealed on Thursday, Roy Halladay would headline its impressive class of 2017 inductees this June.
Halladay, 39, spent parts of 12 seasons in Toronto while carving out a 148–76 win-loss record supported by a grand total of 1,495 strikeouts and an overall earned-run average of 3.43 across 2046.2 innings of work.
Considering what his time in Canada meant to both him and his family, Halladay was elated to receive news of his induction.
“I really feel like I was part of the city and loved the time I spent there,” the franchise icon said during his conference call on Thursday. “To get the announcement, I was obviously thrilled. This honor, it kind of feels like everything’s come full circle.”
Emerging as the team’s ace in 2002, Toronto’s hard-throwing standout led the junior circuit in innings pitched on three separate occasions during his stint with the Blue Jays, and became only the third franchise hurler to capture a Cy Young award after posting 22 wins and throwing nine complete games in 2003.
Of many, the final stages of that whirlwind 2003 campaign stand out in Halladay’s memories from his playing days in Toronto.
“Carlos Delgado had a four home run game, we were close in the pennant race and it was just a fun atmosphere,” Halladay said. “That was the closest thing at that point I had experienced to the playoffs. For me, it was kind of the ultimate.”
Traded to Philadelphia ahead of the 2010 season, Halladay again took home Cy Young honors following his first year in the National League, a season that saw the 33-year-old become the 20th player in MLB history to record a perfect game only to follow that feat up by tossing a no-hitter against the Reds in game one of the NLDS a few months later.
Having last taken the mound as a member of the Phils on Sept. 23rd, 2013, the former Blue Jay announced his retirement from the game shortly after that season and was afforded an opportunity to return to Toronto in order to sign a one-day contract with his former club a year later.
After living in the city and experiencing first hand what it was like to play for such a passionate fan base, the former rotation stalwart is truly appreciative of the support he receives from fans north of the border.
“It was a privilege to live and play in Canada for as long as I did. The people here were kind, supportive, respectful and always seemed to welcome me home even when I came to visit and sat in the wrong dugout,” he said. “To be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is just another example of exceptional treatment I have received from Canada.”
Soft spoken and highly competitive by nature, Halladay was a hit with fans.
In 2013, Canadian country music recording artist Gord Bamford (Lacombe, Alta.) released a track titled “Baseball Glove” as part of his “Christmas in Canada” album. Written from a child’s standpoint, Bamford goes on to sing that all he wants for Christmas is a “genuine cowhide Rawlings pro special, one autographed by Roy Halladay."
Often receiving heavy airplay on radio over the holidays, Bamford’s nod to his favorite hurler helps to further cement Halladay’s status as a type of folk hero in the Great White North. A few years ago Bamford held a Christmas concert in Toronto and Rawlings’ Jason Shipley, Canadian Business Unit manager, presented him with a new “custom heart of the hide glove.” Now Bamford usually travels with it.
Known for his fierce presence on the mound, the eight-time All-Star finished his career having amassed an overall won-loss record of 203–105 with 2117 strikeouts and 67 complete games. His career winning percentage of .659 represents the 19th highest figure in the history of the game, 58 points behind Cooperstown inductee Christy Mathewson.
As for the future, Halladay hinted at his desire to get back into the game during Thursday’s conference.
“I do have plans to get back into baseball. At this point, I don’t know what team it will be with, or in what capacity, although I can say that I have talked to the Blue Jays,” he said. “It’s fun to find was to encourage people to do things better, or find a better way for them. I enjoy working with younger pitchers.”
The future Canadian baseball hall of famer will join former Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero, long-time Baseball Canada president Ray Carter, late umpiring great Doug Hudlin and the 2015 Team Canada, gold medal winners at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Ajax, at an induction ceremony scheduled for June 24th in St. Marys, Ont.
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