ICYMI: Hallladay, Toronto's Sportsperson of the year, 2009

By Bob Elliott

The trophies sit on a stairway cut out inside the Halladay household.

The 2003 American League Cy Young award presented to ...

Roy Halladay.

In front of it stands a silver horse, presented by American Quarter Horse Association Rookie of the Year trophy to ...

Brandy Halladay.

“The trophies are about the same size,” said Blue Jays right-hander.

The Halladay house of honours in Odessa, Fla. now has another one.

Halladay is the winner of the fifth annual George Gross Sportsperson of the Year. The award goes to the athlete who had the most impact on the Toronto sports scene. A $1,000 donation will be made in Halladay’s to the Isaac Foundation. 

During the season Halladay in a workaholic on a don’t-stop, until-you-drop program which enabled him to throw 246 innings and finish as the runner up in Cy Young award voting this season. He has a career record of 131-66 ... 113-49 since he was demoted to Single-A Dunedin by then general manager Gord Ash and manager Buck Martinez in the spring of 2001. 
“A lot of things changed for me then, I wanted to be liked, respected and wanted,” Halladay said. “I try to be as helpful as I can, be a good person, I feel it is more important to be a good person than a good pitcher. I had to get to the point where I liked the person I was, regardless of what happened on the field. 

“You play for a short period, substance is more important. It’s more important that you are a good father, a good husband and a good person in the community. That really defines who you are.”

Growing up in Arvada, Col., one of Halladay’s role models was two-time, National League MVP winner Dale Murphy, of the Atlanta Braves.  

“I could not tell you any of Dale Murphy’s stats but I know how great a man he was, what a family man, a father and what he did in the community,” Halladay said.

How is Halladay a great father to his sons Braden eight and Ryan four?

“On the day they move out of our house I want them to know that they got the best from me, it wasn’t about me, it was about them,” said proud papa. “I’d rather be their friend first.”

And how is he a great husband to wife Brandy, aside from allowing his wife to take a turn at the TV controller when his favorite show (Survivor) is playing?

“My wife has to take the back seat most of the season and put off some of her hobbies, it’s easy sometimes in baseball where everyone is talking about you to forget,” said Halladay. “I try to do more for her doing the winter and put baseball on the back

Brandy has three quarter horses -- Colby, Mutt and Certs -- boarded 15 minutes away at Showacase Farms, in Lutz, Fla. Brandy competes in English and western riding disciplines at competitions around the Tampa Bay area. 

Halladay’s off-season support role began as taking the kids off mom’s hands on competition weekends. 

A year ago Brandy broke through with four wins at the Tampa Fairgrounds. The five judges gave their results with riders atop horses inside the ring, as husbands, children and boosters nervously waited.   

“It was cool,” said Halladay who stood and cheered when Brandy won her first first-place finish. “It took her a while, there was a seventh (out of a field of 45) or an eighth. 

Then that one weekend Brandy had four or five.”

Brandy didn’t receive a phone call from the AQHA secretary when she claimed the rookie of the year -- as Alfredo Griffin in 1979. Or as Halladay did from Baseball Writers Association of America secretary Jack O’Connell when he won the Cy Young award. 

“They base it on a point system and put it on the web site, not a lot fan fare,” Halladay said.  

As long as Colby’s tendons are 100%, Brandy will ride at competitions in Florida and South Carolina next month. Brandy hopes to make the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. The Halladays attended the show before.

The previous winners are Mike (Pinball) Clemens of the Toronto Argos. The Toronto Rock; Cassie Campbell, captain of Team Canada’s gold-medal winning Olympic women’s hockey team and Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors general manager. 

Halladay was selected over nominees Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chris Bosh of the Raptors, Daniel Nestor, a doubles winner at  Wimbledon, Kingston’s Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada and Jays manager Cito Gaston. 

“Wow, it’s good company, both the past winners and the people in contention this year, have all done a lot for sports in Toronto and Canada,” said Halladay after listening to the names. “Obviously getting picked is an honour. It’s nice to be associated with all those names.”

Besides pitching every fifth day and trying to pitch nine innings, Halladay and his wife Brandy entertain 10-to-15 children from the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital in a skybox on Sundays.

“We go up, say hi, take pictures,” Halladay said. “We’re trying to move forward in other ways. They’ve upgraded and updated a lot rooms at the hospital. Some still need more, we’re trying improve some of their treatment rooms.”

Halladay went 20-11 in 33 starts this season, his 11th with the Jays -- and first since age 12 without mentor Bus Campbell. Spring training 2008 began with a Tampa-Denver flight, as Halladay flew to Denver for Campbell’s funeral. After a rare rough Halladay start, Campbell, having charted pitches after watching on the satellite dish package Halladay had purchased for him, would call his former pupil.

“This year was different, I was used to being able to talk to him,” Halladay said. “With the people we had in Toronto (pitching coach Brad Arnsberg) unless it got drastic, we were pretty good at fixing things.”

Halladay fits the sexy franchise player tag, despite talk that the rebuilding Jays should deal him for three or four players. The Minnesota Twins moved Johann Santana, with a 48-hour window to talk a long-term deal, and received one everyday player in centre fielder Carlos Gomez plus prospects. Teams do not have a ton to give. 

“Playing my whole career with the same organization is something I’d like to do, something everyone would like to do,” Halladay said. “The hard thing is it takes two parties to agree on it.”

Halladay is humble, as on friend says “humble enough to be mistaken for a Canadian.”

“I don’t need much,” he answers when asked if he gets the proper credit. “People in Toronto are grateful, any time I run into someone they are very complimentary.” 

With husband supporting wife, with wife supporting husband this is an award-inning household.

And Braden Halladay, the 58-pound, ferocious nose tackle/defensive right tackle played for the East Lake Eagles in the Little League Super Bowl in Lake Wood. Games are played at 8 a.m. so that means a 6:30 weight in for the under 60-pound division.

The mighty Eagles got off the final play with nine seconds remaining and scored the only touchdown with zero time on the clock to beat the Countryside Cougars 6-0.

“The parents went crazy at the end, not me,” said Halladay, who cheered on the Eagles.
East Lake was given a trophy and all the players received a medal.

And where is Braden’s medal now. hanging, over the stallion’s head in the stairway cut away? 

“Actually,” said Halladay, “it is.”