ICYMI: Roy Halladay climbed on the Bus at an early age
By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, Fla. _ There is public speaking and there is speaking before the public.
Roy Halladay spoke before roughly 450 people at the Littleton United Methodist Church at the funeral of former Blue Jays scout Bus Campbell, in Littleton, Col. on Feb. 20.
Pitching with a one-run lead in the eighth is a rough assignment. So is giving an eulogy.
“Baseball is tough, but it’s baseball,” Halladay said, “something you do because you love. Speaking at the funeral was a hard thing, a life thing.”
He also did it because he loved the man who grew from instructor to pitching guru to grandfather figure. Halladay went last in the list of six speakers which included former big-leaguers Mark Knudson, Brian Fisher and ex-Jays scouting director Bob Engle.
The beauty of a speaker is in the ear of the listener.
“I thought Bob did a great job,” Halladay said, “but I struggled with my speech. I lost control a couple of times.”
And the evaluator who made Halladay his No. 1 pick in 1995?
“Roy was excellent, under control, he did a great job with his speech,” Engle said. “Mine was rough, I got mixed up in parts.”
Halladay told the story of his trip -- with wife Brandy, their children Braden, seven and Ryan, three -- to see Campbell in December.
While Braden and Campbell discussed pitching, Ryan was disappointed? Why? He thought a trip to see Bus meant he’d get to ride a bus.
When they are in jams on the mound pitchers think of key words: balance point, arm slot, release point or slow down.
When Halladay is in a jam he can think of two words: Bus Campbell.
Campbell, more than anyone else, helped prepare Halladay for his major-league life.
* * *
Braden Halladay had stood in the middle of Bus Campbell’s living room three months in December. The seven-year-old went into his windup as Campbell watched attentively.
For Halladay it was a flashback to 1991 when he went into his motion and reached his balance point for the first time before Campbell’s knowing eyes.
“Braden was very excited to meet the scout who signed me, Bus was quick to offer help,” the Blue Jays ace said with a smile yesterday.
The only time he smiled was when he spoke of his son, for it was the first time Halladay had gone to work without knowing a 1-800-BUS-HELP line was there -- if required.
Halladay received a call Wednesday from Helen Campbell, Bus’ wife, with tragic news. Bus died Wednesday in Littleton, Col., at age 87.
Campbell fell Monday outside his home and suffered fatal hemorrhaging.
“You could tell on the phone, Helen was hurting,” Halladay said. “I told her they were in our thoughts and prayers.”
Campbell was the Jays scout who signed Halladay in 1995 at age 18. Yet, he was more than that to the Halladay family.
Halladay’s father, also named Roy, took his son to a baseball banquet in 1984. The elder Halladay asked Campbell to work with his seven-year-old son ... Braden’s age.
Campbell told the father his son should continue pitching, “lay off the curve, work on a change and call back at age 14.”
Halladay’s father phoned and one-on-one tutorials began with Campbell.
“Where would I be without Bus’ tutelage and encouragement?” Halladay repeated. “I doubt I’d be in baseball. I got my work ethic from my dad and my baseball knowledge from Bus. They were the two most important men in my life.”
Halladay is asked if like Wade Boggs and others, he would dedicate this season to his mentor. Halladay said no and looked off into the distance.
“My career, the way I live, there are so many great things I learned from Bus about life,” Halladay said.
If your son is taking a pitching lesson at $120 for six weeks of hourly lessons you might want to sit down before reading this:
Campbell tutored Halladay two or three times a week for four years.
Total bill? Zero.
“He did so much and asked for nothing in return,” the former Cy Young award winner said. “I try to live my life the way he would want me to live.”
We first met Campbell in 1994 with scouting director Bob Engle outside Denver. Engle heard the news in Korea, quickly boarded a flight for Los Angeles, flew home to Tampa, awaiting a flight to Denver when the services were finalized.
“He was a kind man with a special set of eyes,” Engle said from Los Angeles.
Campbell scouted for the Jays in 1993, earning a World Series ring, working for the team until 1999. Every time we talked -- 1998 to 2007 -- the first words he’d say were the same:
Nine times out of 10 Harry Leroy Halladay III was doing just fine. That one time the answer was “his last one wasn’t real good ...” Campbell had the solution.
“Even last year Bus would call me after starts,” Halladay said.
Campbell was a hands-on, for-life coach for Halladay, always seeking to improve as he did with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, Brad Lidge, Shawn Chacon, Scott Elarton, Burt Hooten, Steve Busby and Mark Langston.
Campbell changed Jamie Moyer’s mechanics. Moyer, released for a second time in 1992, has won 198 games since.
The Christmas after the Jays selected Halladay 17th overall and gave him a $975,000 US signing bonus, the Halladays staked out the Campbell house.
Finally, when the Colorado pitching guru was not home they installed a satellite dish. He also gave Campbell a grandfather clock since he was a grandfather figure.
“Hopefully,” Halladay said, “I can find someone outside the family who can offer the same baseball insight my sons (Braden and Ryan) as Bud did to me.”
There was only one Bus Campbell.