Chase Utley

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jimmy Rollins called it a reunion of the most unfortunate kind.

On the very field where he made his memorable Phillies debut in March 2010, Roy Halladay, the pitcher, the man, the teammate, the husband and the father, was remembered Tuesday evening in a moving celebration of life at Spectrum Field a week after he died in a plane crash just a few miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Family, friends, fans, former teammates and the young players he coached on two travel teams and down the street at Calvary Christian High School sat in the stands from dugout to dugout — the turnout was estimated at 2,000 — and listened to emotional and heartfelt remembrances from those who knew Halladay best.

Nine people spoke and that was fitting.

Doc always wanted to go the distance.

Chase Utley, a teammate who won Halladay's respect because the two men shared an intense work ethic and competitive spirit, was one of the speakers. He told the story about showing up the first day of spring training at 5:45 a.m., wanting to be the first one through the door so he could send the right message to his teammates, and much to his surprise finding a sweat-soaked Halladay eating breakfast. Halladay had already completed a pre-dawn workout, which, of course, would be followed by the regular team workout a few hours later.

"I knew then and there, this guy was the real deal," Utley said.

Utley spoke from a stage just behind the pitcher's mound. The stage was adorned with flowered numbers — a red 34 for Halladay's time in Philadelphia, a blue 32 for his time in Toronto — and pictures of the future Hall of Famer in both teams' uniforms. Utley closed his remarks by looking out in front of the stage, where Halladay's wife, Brandy, and the couple's two sons, Braden, 17, and Ryan, 13, sat.

"Your dad ...," Utley said.

The stoic second baseman paused and became emotional.

"... was the best teammate I ever played with and the most fierce competitor I've ever seen. I'm sure all your lives you've heard people praise your dad and tell you how proud they were of him. But in the conversations I've had with him, he was more proud of what you guys have accomplished than what he ever accomplished on the field.

"Brandy, Braden and Ryan, thank you for sharing him with us."

Later, after the tribute, Utley talked about speaking directly to the two Halladay boys.

"That was probably the hardest part," he said. "I have two boys myself. It really hit home.

"Roy meant so much to me. He affected me. He made me better as I have evolved as a player and a person."

Braden and Ryan are both young baseball talents. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was one of the speakers and he, too, spoke directly to the boys, promising to peek in on their games.

Manuel also recalled managing the National League All-Star team in 2009 and meeting Halladay, the American League All-Star starter that summer. By that time, the Phillies had already had their eyes on Halladay, hoping to swing a trade with the Blue Jays for him.

"You’d look good in a Phillies uniform," Manuel told Halladay that day.

Halladay was in a Phillies uniform the following spring. He made his spring training debut on March 4, 2010, and pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts against the New York Yankees. Just three of the 24 pitches he threw that day were balls.

Three.

Halladay went on to pitch a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and win the NL Cy Young award that season. He finished second in the Cy Young race the following season and helped the Phillies win 102 games. His final two seasons with the club were marred by back and shoulder injuries that ended his career.

Halladay pitched his heart out in an excruciating 1-0 playoff loss against St. Louis that ended the Phillies' 102-win season in 2011. He pitched that game against another big, right-hander, Chris Carpenter. The two were former teammates with the Blue Jays, best friends and fishing buddies. Carpenter was one of the speakers Tuesday and he made you laugh and cry.

"Doc texted me after Game 5," Carpenter said. "I was on the bus. He was in front of his locker. There he was, he'd just pitched his heart out and he wanted to congratulate me and wish me luck the rest of the way. He also said, 'I'm looking forward to our fishing trip in Brazil.'"

Carpenter told of how, as young, aspiring players, he and Halladay would fish late at night during spring training and fantasize about one day being as good as Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. He talked about fishing trips to South America, how Halladay would bring his glove so he could get his offseason throwing in, and how, on a 100-degree day, Halladay took a dip in the piranha-infested Amazon River.

"Dude, get back in the boat, you’re going to get eaten by something," Carpenter recalled telling a backstroking Halladay.

Carpenter also got to the core of Halladay — the determination, the drive, the persistence — when he talked of his friend's early-career struggles and the demotion from the majors all the way to Single A. That event was the watershed moment in Halladay's career. He changed his pitching mechanics and found a new mindset thanks to his work with sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

"When he came back, you could see it in his face and his body language that he was going to dominate," Carpenter said. "He said he would never be that bad again and he became the best of our generation."

Phillies owner John Middleton spoke and said that Halladay transcended sports.

"Knowing Roy is one of the great privileges in my life," Middleton said. "The man made the ballplayer, not the other way around. We all wanted to win for Doc. No one wanted to let him down because we always knew Doc would never let us down."

Dozens of former teammates and officials from two teams were on hand for the tribute. Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Ruben Amaro, Rich Dubee, Pat Gillick, David Montgomery, Jose Bautista, Cito Gaston, Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez were there. Scott Rolen, a Phillie who became a teammate of Halladay's in Toronto, was there. Carlos Ruiz, Halladay's beloved catcher was there. He cried as he spoke about learning of his friend's death.

"Doc will always be in my heart," Ruiz said after the tribute.

George Poulis, the legendary Blue Jays athletic trainer who stretched Halladay's arm before starts, told of a pre-start routine the two shared.

"Before he'd head out to warm up, I'd say, 'Doc, have a good one,'" Poulis said. "If I got distracted working on another player, he would stand there until I said those words."

Poulis paused, fighting back emotion.

"Doc, have a good one," he said. "I will miss you from the bottom of my heart."

Halladay's dad, Roy, spoke beautifully about his son. Brandy spoke for 18 heartbreaking minutes about her husband and how she beat him in billiards on their first date and ping-pong on their second.

"Roy Halladay does not like to lose," she said, a hint of a smile breaking through the tears.

Brandy Halladay urged the mourners to take nothing for granted and to hug their family members tightly. A few minutes later, she looked down at her two sons and spoke of their dad.

"I still get to see him every day because I look at you," she said.

Vince Nauss of Baseball Chapel concluded the tribute with some beautiful words. He also spoke at the celebration of Dallas Green's life back in March. He's one of the best.

Rollins was right, with so many former teammates, coaches and officials from the Phillies on hand, it was like a reunion, albeit a very sad one.

Moments after the tribute concluded, Rollins spoke of learning of Halladay's death in a text message from Ryan Howard, who was also on hand for the service. Rollins grieved and tried to come to terms with the news until finally going to bed at about 1 o'clock that night. His said his wife, Johari, was a little too far over on his side of the bed and gave him a little kick as if to say, "Move over." Jimmy said he wasn't going to move over, not on that night. He felt compelled to move closer to his wife and give her a hug.

"Like Brandy said, hug your family a little tighter," Rollins said.

The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

Chase Utley seldom looks out of place on a baseball field.

He is a preparation junkie, always in tip-top shape and runs out every play like it's his last.

Then he met the surgeon on the mound.

Roy Halladay, a competitor of Utley's ilk, was his match.

In his career, "The Man" never logged an official at-bat against "Doc" — and for that, he considers himself fortunate.

However ...

"I believe I faced him in spring training and he made me look like a little leaguer out there," Utley said Wednesday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk. "And I think I might have faced him in the All-Star Game (2009), and I remember thinking, 'OK, I've heard a lot about him, first pitch I see that's going to be a strike, I'm going to try to put it in play.' I did and I was out. He was a man among boys out there. He truly was."

Utley and Halladay, astoundingly alike in their baseball makeup and mindset, shared an incredible appreciation for one another, especially after they became teammates in 2010.

Over the past two days, Utley has found himself sharing that appreciation in the wake of Halladay's death on Tuesday, a result of a tragic plane crash.

"Obviously this is terrible, my heart goes out to Brandy and his two boys (Ryan and Braden)," Utley said. "I know he was really involved in their athletic abilities. I did a camp for them, this was a few years ago, and he was a coach, he had all the gear on, and he was really into it. Words can't really describe … it's just not a good thing. But I think it's important to reflect on all the positive things that he not only did for Major League Baseball, but for the Phillies and his teammates. He really made his teammates better."

Utley was made better by Halladay as the two pushed each other with their drive to be better than the day before. Utley offered a glimpse inside his own routine for spring training.

And the day someone actually beat him to the ballpark.

It was Halladay at 5:45 a.m.

"I heard a lot of good things about Roy prior to actually meeting him. Going back to the Instagram post that I put out [Tuesday], I thought I was a guy that got to the ballpark early to get a bunch of work done before the day really started," Utley said. "I walked in, I think I was with Brian Schneider at the time, and Roy was sitting there in his workout gear, almost finished with breakfast, he was soaking wet. I assumed he had worked out, but I made a joke, 'Hey, man, was it raining when you walked into the ballpark?' He kind of looked at me, laughed [and said], 'No, I just finished my workout.' That's something that I'll never forget about him. Right then and there, I knew what he was all about — all the rumors, all the stories that I heard about him prior to that, I knew they were all real."

Halladay captured the hearts of Philadelphia. A blue-collar city could tip its cap to a player with such dedication and determination.

Utley said those traits resonated with his teammates, as well.

"He was obviously an important part of our ballclub and he rubbed guys the right way, he made guys around him better, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball," Utley said. "Our pitching staff, even our position players, kind of watched what he did in between starts and I think a lot of them implemented that into what they did on a daily basis. Guys gravitated towards him.

"What he did, in the era that he did it, is truly remarkable. There's a reason he was so good. Obviously everyone is talking about how hard he worked between starts, and it was no joke. He was getting after it and it motivated me, it motivated a lot of guys to try to become the best player you could be. And he got the most out of everything.

"He was a once-in-a-lifetime player to be honest with you."

Utley got a taste of it one steamy day in Chicago's Friendly Confines, where he was baptized with Halladay's unmatched intensity.

"I remember a game we were playing in Wrigley Field. And for some reason that day, it felt like it was 1,000 degrees on the field. There was no breeze, it was probably 105 degrees, but the heat index must have been much higher," Utley said. "And he was working. As we all know, he was working hard out on the mound.

"I remember thinking, 'OK, he's working hard, it's super hot out here, I'm going to go to the mound and maybe give him a breather.' So I go to the mound, I think I pretend like I'm tying my shoes and he looked at me with like this evil look. I knew right then and there, he didn't need a break, he didn't need to take any time off. He wanted to get back to pitching, so I learned my lesson at that point to not bother him when he's doing his thing on the mound."

That's because Halladay was as fierce as any when it came to winning. Utley mentioned the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Halladay allowed a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who a moment later scored what turned out to be the game's only run. Halladay finished with eight innings of one-run ball and seven strikeouts. The Phillies lost, 1-0, and the 102-win season was over way too early.

Still, Utley looks back on that night in amazement of Halladay.

"You knew looking into his eyes after they scored that one run, that they were not going to score another run," Utley said. "And they didn't. Unfortunately we were not able to squeeze a run across, but I remember him just sitting in the locker room after the game, as we all were disappointed. At that point, I just said, 'Doc, you did everything you could do, you need to hold your head high.' I think that picked him up a little bit, but he was all about winning, that's what he wanted to do on a daily basis."

He accomplished plenty in Philadelphia. The perfect game, the postseason no-hitter, the 2010 NL Cy Young, the franchise-record 102 victories.

All with class.

"One thing that I took from him was obviously he was a great pitcher, he had so much success with the Phillies, but after every game he pitched well, which was pretty much the majority of all of them, he would always kind of deflect the attention to somebody else as far as, 'Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) called a great game, Ryan Howard had the big home run, Jayson Werth made a great play in the outfield,'" Utley said. "That right there showed me what kind of person he was — he wasn't about himself, he was about the team and he was definitely all about winning."

And, he somehow made a guy like Utley want to work even harder.

Former teammates remember Roy Halladay

Former teammates remember Roy Halladay

The news of Roy Halladay's death shook the sports world Tuesday. Within moments of the revelation that Halladay was in the plane that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, the love and grief from Halladay's former teammates and peers began to pour out.

Here's the reaction from some of those closest to Doc. This still doesn't feel real.

Chase Utley
"Words cannot describe what it feels like to lose a friend like Roy. He was the ultimate teammate with a passion for being the best. I'm honored to have had the chance to compete with you, Roy. My heart goes out to Brandy and his boys. RIP Doc, but knowing you, rest is not in your vocabulary."

The bromance between Halladay and Utley was one of the most fun aspects of those Phillies teams. Halladay always revered Utley's work ethic, which is saying something because it was Doc's tireless dedication to his craft that made so many players around baseball look up to him.

"On the field I got goose bumps every time!" Halladay tweeted in July 2014 of playing with Utley. "Please encourage your friends, family, most of all your kids to be like chase! #26&chooch!"

Charlie Manuel
"Roy was the best competitor I'd ever seen and it was an honor to have managed him. He was not only a great pitcher, but also a great person and a tremendous father. His contributions to the Phillies can't be measured. Roy was like a brother to me and we remained close after his playing days. I'm heartbroken for Brandy and the boys."

Some of the most memorable Doc-Charlie moments were when Manuel would go out to the mound late in a game to gauge whether Halladay had enough left to get one more out. Every time, Halladay would shrug him off. And it seemed like every time, Halladay would pick up that final out to make his manager look wise.

Ruben Amaro Jr.
"Roy Halladay was most accountable and hardest-working athlete I'd ever been around and while he was the fiercest competitor on the mound, he was also the kindest and most gentle person I've ever known. My heart goes out to Brandy, Braden and Ryan."

Amaro loved Halladay. Landing him in that trade with the Blue Jays prior to the 2010 season was one of his biggest accomplishments as Phillies GM, and it was the result of months of work trying to pry him away from Toronto.

Brad Lidge
"We will all remember Roy for his amazing moments on the field, how he dialed it up in the most important situations, how he competed and left his heart on the field every time he took the ball. But he was also an incredible dad, an incredible husband and an incredible teammate. He was quiet and thoughtful, but knew how to be playful. I competed against Roy since we were in Little League together and I will remember him in that way, and as a man.  It was a privilege to know him and his family, and to have been his teammate. Our hearts go out to Brandy, his kids and his family."

Scott Rolen
"I'm sick right now. Doc was as driven a human being as I'd ever met in my life. I'm hurting for his family and friends. We all lost a good man."

Halladay had the same level of respect for Rolen that he had for Utley. Three men personified by the word "gamer."

Shane Victorino
"You are gone too soon, my friend. I was blessed to have shared the field with you as a teammate, competitor, friend and more importantly, brother. Praying for Brandy and the boys, my Ohana and I will do all we can for them in this tragic time. I love you, bro."

"Ohana" is the Hawaiian word for family.

Raul Ibanez
"I am deeply saddened and absolutely devastated by the tragic loss of Roy Halladay. Doc was the best pitcher I ever had the privilege of sharing the field with as his preparation, consistency, passion, drive and excellence on the field was unmatched. He was a dominant force on the mound every fifth day and he made all of us better without having to say a word. Doc was a tremendous teammate who never sought out the spotlight, rather he let his greatness on the field do the talking for him. He cared about winning and being the best player and teammate possible.  His career accolades speak for themselves but what I most admired about him was his love for his family and his children. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this incredibly difficult time."

• • •

Those were just a few of the heartfelt messages from Halladay's former mates. The rest of the baseball world was hit just as hard. And you didn't even need to know Halladay personally to be devastated.