Phillies

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

I was there for the perfect game. I was there for the postseason no-hitter. I was there on that night when the Phillies clinched the division title in 2010 — his Cy Young season in Philadelphia — and he finally got to experience the euphoria of a champagne celebration. I was there when he pitched so valiantly and left a piece of his soul on the mound at Citizens Bank Park the night the 102-win season came to a crushing conclusion in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. I was there the night he walked off the mound in Miami for the last time in September 2013, his wounded right shoulder turned to spaghetti after pitching 15 seasons in the majors and reaching 220 innings eight times.

I saw all of Roy Halladay's highs and lows during his four seasons as a Phillie.

And, yet, my favorite memory of the man who left this world way too soon on Tuesday did not even happen in a game.

It happened in July 2011 during a memorable series at Wrigley Field. Halladay pitched the series opener on a Monday night and was forced to leave the game after the fourth inning because of dehydration. It was a scary scene. Wrigley Field was a pizza oven that night and Roy couldn't fight off the heat. At one point, it looked like he would pass out. He needed intravenous after the game. The next day, to the surprise of many, he pronounced himself fine and said he would be ready to make his next start. To prove it, he was the first one on the field Wednesday morning, ready to throw his between-starts bullpen sessions.

Halladay approached those between-starts bullpen sessions the way a surgeon approaches his work in the operating room. The expression "all business" does not even do it justice. No one got in his way. Nothing pierced his concentration. He would finish those sessions and walk straight to the training room for stretching and ice. It was all part of his almost robotic routine and anyone who got in his way would feel the sting of his icy glare.

But there were exceptions.

Roy Halladay had a huge competitor's heart. He also had a good heart and a soft spot for kids.

As Halladay went through his bullpen routine that Wednesday morning in Chicago, a tour group made its way through the stands. As the tour leader talked about the old ballpark, the group of fans couldn't help but rubberneck Halladay's work in the bullpen. Halladay finished the bullpen session, threw a towel over his shoulder and, still in the zone, started walking purposefully back to the dugout with pitching coach Rich Dubee. As Halladay got to the top step of the dugout and was about to disappear up the tunnel to the clubhouse, a young boy broke away from the tour group and shouted, "Roy!" Halladay stopped, looked around and saw the boy running his way. The pitcher waited for the boy to arrive at the dugout. He wiped sweat from his forearms and signed the kid's baseball. The boy looked for a moment at the prized autograph, then ran through the stands at empty Wrigley Field and rejoined the group. The kid got a lot more than a tour of the Friendly Confines that day.

That one moment with a kid in an empty ballpark in Chicago spoke volumes about Roy Halladay. He was always willing to make a kid's day. He was always willing to share a piece of himself with a young person who wanted to touch his greatness or learn from it. We saw it time and time again in Philadelphia. He took Kyle Kendrick under his wing. He bonded with Carlos Ruiz. He guided Cole Hamels.

"In order to be great at something, you have to have mentors, and he was one for me," the heartbroken Hamels said Tuesday night, just a few hours after learning of his friend's death in a plane crash at the way-too-young age of 40. "He made you push to a level that you didn't think you could reach. He raised my bar."

Guys like Kendrick, Ruiz and Hamels revered Halladay. He gave them so much and they wanted to give back to him. After the Phillies won the division in 2011, Ruiz said, "Gotta get Doc a ring." It didn't work out, of course. But not having a World Series ring did not diminish Halladay's career at all and he knew that. Yes, he pushed for a trade from Toronto to Philadelphia because he saw it as a way to put a World Series ring on his finger. But if you listened closely to Doc during his four seasons here, you know that he prioritized "enjoying the journey" more than anything — and he had quite a journey.

Most recently, his journey had taken him to the skies and to a tragic and unfathomable end, but his baseball journey had continued. He spent the spring and summer working part-time in the Phillies’ organization, mentoring young minor-league pitchers on the science of gaining a mental edge. He was also the proud pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School, just down the road from the Phillies’ ballpark in Clearwater, and he was coaching another youth team, as well. Back in March, he beamed as he talked about coaching those two teams. His sons, Braden and Ryan, were players on those teams and Roy was loving the time he got to spend with them around the game he loved so much.

Fathers ... sons ... baseball.

Gulp.

Man, there are so many reasons why this is difficult. So, so many. Roy Halladay's affinity and commitment to helping youngsters, from Little Leaguers to professionals, is a big one. The guy was always generous with his time and expertise and that will be missed.

So what is Roy Halladay's legacy? Cooperstown? Oh, yeah. That will happen. But his real legacy is still out there, and in some cases it's still developing. The guy touched a lot of young lives through baseball and surely some of those young lives will do great things with the lessons he imparted. I was there for the no-hitters and the other memorable moments of Roy Halladay's time in Philadelphia. But I'll remember most how much the kids always mattered to him.

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.

 

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Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

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A group of Phillies prospects was in town this week for the organization’s annual prospects education seminar.

One of those lessons came from a legend.

Brian Dawkins, the most motivational athlete this city has ever seen, shared with the group his thoughts on playing in Philadelphia and responding to the passionate fan base.

“Playing in Philadelphia is different,” Dawkins said. “If you get on the field, there is a 99.99 percent chance you will be booed. The thing I always knew though was that you may boo me that one time but I’m not gonna make the same mistake again.”

The group included Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ top offensive prospect, and Cristopher Sanchez, a pitching prospect with a 100 mph arm profiled here by Jim Salisbury.

Check out the video here if you’re seeking some extra juice at the gym or just want to see Weapon X drop some jewels.

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