New CBHOF inductee Halladay works with heads, not arms

Longtime Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on Saturday. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Longtime Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on Saturday. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

By Andrew Hendriks

Canadian Baseball Network

ST. MARYS – It’s been four years, two months and 29 days since Roy Halladay last pitched in the big leagues, but to the two-time Cy Young Award winner, it feels like yesterday.

Included within a star-studded class of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees for 2017, Halladay was honoured in St. Marys on Saturday. He told reporters that he was surprised when the ball hall reached out to him earlier this year.

“I was caught off guard,” explained the eight-time All-Star prior to his induction on Saturday. “I really didn’t know that I was retired that long... It went quick.”

Although his playing days are now behind him, Halladay remains connected to the game by guesting at various minor league camps during spring training.

Recently, he extended his stay in order to work with some of Philadelphia Phillies' up and coming talent.

“I was helping out with the Phillies and working with their mental performance department,” said Halladay when asked about his involvement this spring. “That’s where my interest really lies. In the mental part of the game... It was so huge for me. It changed my career a great deal.”

Only three seasons removed from carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his second career major league start, Halladay was optioned down to class-A Dunedin in order to adjust both his throwing mechanics and mound mentality.

Taking part in regimented bullpen sessions under the watchful eye of pitching guru Mel Queen, the mechanical fixes came easy for the former first-round draft pick. It was the work he did between the ears that really took some time to process.

“The mental part was the major change for me. It was something that I knew nothing about,” explained Halladay.  “The physical changes came pretty quickly and easily but the mental part was something that was a big challenge and an eye-opener.“

During that time, Halladay began working with the author of “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement” and renowned sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

Together, they formulated an approach that would transform Halladay into the dominant pitcher he would later become in Toronto.

“For me, it was very important just to be single minded and focused on small things,” explained Halladay when queried about his mental edge. “I always made sure that I wouldn’t get distracted by external details and things going on around me. I wanted to make sure that I was paying attention to the little internal thoughts and things that I had to do to get the job done... A lot of it was just me. When things get intense, I kind of go internal and that’s just the way that I process things. “

Having spent a great deal of time working with Dorfman, Halladay now feels responsible for imparting that wisdom on to players who may be going through similar adversities to the ones he faced in the early 2000’s.

“I was fortunate to spend so much time with Harvey, who was the ultimate instructor. I almost feel a certain responsibility to pass that information that I gained from him on,” admitted Halladay.

“Going around and seeing minor league players now... There are many guys struggling with the same issues that I did. I just try and let them know that there’s actually a solution and it’s pretty welcoming by them.”

For Halladay, it’s his ability to connect with these prospects that he finds rewarding.  

“The great thing is that I feel I connect with them on so many levels just because I have struggled and I have been through those low points, questioning if I would ever play again and all that kind of stuff. I feel like it’s easy for me to connect with players from that aspect.”

When asked if there’s a future in coaching for the author of not one, but two no-hitters during his 16-year MLB career, Halladay admits that there is certainly some personal interest but for now, he’s enjoying retirement and watching his sons play ball down south.

As for his induction into to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Halladay is thrilled to have received such an honor.

“Canada has really become a second home for me. I absolutely love the time I’ve spent here, and it really feels like that’s where the majority of my career was played,” said Halladay on Saturday.

“It’s where I went through all of the ups and downs and established myself... twice! It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by a place that is so warm in my heart.”

-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)