By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Roy Halladay admits he ‘’grew up,’’ a little more than 16 years ago when he was optioned to the minor leagues to get straightened out, not just as a pitcher but as a person.
His pitching mechanics were one thing back in 2000 but mental toughness was something else.
“It was a growing-up point in my life and in my career,’’ Halladay was saying Thursday on a conference call about his selection into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. “I worked on the mental part and the mechanical/pitching part. it really turned my career around and it really changed me as a person 180 degrees.’’
When he returned from his stint in his minors, Halladay went on to become one of he game’s greatest pitchers over a tenure that included a 148-76 record with the Blue Jays and a lifetime mark of 203-105 along with 20 shutouts and a glittering ERA of 3.38.
Halladay will be inducted June 24 along with Montreal Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero, B.C. amateur stalwarts Ray Carter and Doug Hudlin and the Team Canada senior men’s team that captured gold at the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
Halladay alluded to the help he gained by meeting and listening to former Jays pitcher Pat Hentgen. The first and subsequent meetings over the years made Halladay a huge fan of Hentgen.
“I learned a lot from Pat. He was the first major league-player that came down after my first season,’’ Halladay said. “I had finished the Gulf Coast league and Pat came down because he was getting ready to go on a tour of Japan (with MLB All-Stars). He introduced himself and asked if I would play catch with him.
“He’s one of the most down-to-earth, welcoming people you could meet in your life. The way he handled me and talked to me, he was phenomenal. It was great learning from his intensity, how prepared he was, how important it was to be a teammate.’’
Guerrero spent seven seasons with the Expos, hitting 449 lifetime homers and driving in 1,496 runs, thanks in part to an uncanny ability to hit balls out of the strike zone. Guerrero almost made it into National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown last month, garnering 71.7% of the votes on his first try.
“Vladimir was scary to face,’’ Halladay said. “He didn’t need a strike zone. I never saw hand-eye coordination like his anywhere else before. He had a great, reliable arm, he was fast, he could do everything.
“They used to tell us in pitcher’s meetings you had to bounce it, but if you bounced it he would still hit it. Same with pitching him away. Eventually they said ‘throw in down the middle.”
Guerrero batted .263 (10-for-38) against Halladay with a homer, eight RBIs and a .624 OPS.
Carter served as president of Baseball Canada from 2000-2016 after spending eight years at the helm of Baseball BC and was quick to point out the highlight of his career.
“Certainly the 2015 gold medal for the senior men’s team (at the Pan Am Games in Ajax) was tops,’’ Carter said. “I was sitting directly behind home plate and when we won, I was so proud. I’ll never forget that. I said, ‘Those are my boys, my sons.’ ‘’
Hudlin, who died in 1991, umpired from 1953-1992, including two stints at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. He became the first non-American to ump at the Williamsport event in 1967 and was the first international umpire to work two Williamsport competitions.
Hudlin also umpired twice at the Senior Little League World Series in Gary, Ind., five times at the Canadian Little League World Series and countless competitions in BC and Western Canada.
Hudlin’s step-daughter Judy Messerli was asked her how Hudlin would react if he knew he was elected into the St. Marys hall?
“He’d absolutely be walking on air, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself,’’ Messerli said. “Going to Williamsport for the first time would have been the highlight of his career.’’
Canada’s gold-winning Pan-Am team from 2015 defeated the U.S. 7-6 in the final in one of the most exciting games in Canadian baseball history. Team Canada coach Ernie Whitt told journalists that he doesn’t need to watch a video of the final game against the Americans to get excited.
“It’s fixed in my memory. I like it just the way it is -- in my mind,’’ Whitt said.
Induction weekend will start June 22 with a new event to replace the celebrity softball game that was usually held on Thursday night. An ‘Opening Night’ reception will be held in Toronto at the offices of the Miller Thomson law firm. On June 23, a celebrity golf tournament and banquet will be staged at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club.