CLEARWATER — What Roy Halladay did supremely for 16 years as a pitcher was what brought them together Tuesday, sitting appropriately on the green grass just in front of the mound, his mound, albeit uncharacteristically in black clothes on a mid November afternoon, to share stories and tears.
But the more former Blue Jays and Phillies teammates and bosses, father Roy Jr. and wife Brandy talked about Halladay, a week after the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was obvious there was so much more.
As the Spectrum Field crowd of more than 1,000 current and former big-leaguers to youth league and Calvary Christian players he coached to fans from all over would hear, it was what Halladay did in the early spring mornings, in interviews after games, at home with his sons and menagerie of rescue animals, and on a boat in the Amazon River that made him even more special.
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For Chase Utley, it started on the first day of Halladay’s first 2010 spring with the Phillies in the Spectrum Field clubhouse near where he stood Tuesday.
"I wanted to get in early, I wanted to show my teammates I was ready to go," Utley said. "I remember walking in with Brian Schneider, it was 5:45 in the morning, the sun wasn’t out yet, assuming we would be the first people there.
"I was definitely wrong. Roy was sitting at the table, almost finished with a huge breakfast, and he had his workout clothes on and they were soaking wet. I thought to myself, there’s no way, there’s no way he already got a workout in. So I said, ‘Hey, Roy, was it raining when you walked in this morning?’ He kind of let out a chuckle, put out his hand and said, ‘I just finished my workout.’ I knew right then and there, this guy was the real deal."
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For Chris Carpenter, it started when they were minor-leaguers in the Jays system, fishing late nights near the Dunedin spring camp and dreaming of the day as big-leaguers when they could simply toss their uniforms in a bin to get washed. It evolved as they later became foes matched up in the 2011 playoffs, Halladay texting congratulations before he left the losing clubhouse.
They went on an offseason fishing trip to Brazil, and after Carpenter had to make mention of the hit he got off Halladay in Game 5, they didn’t talk any more baseball.
"He was never afraid of a challenge or doing something that others might not want to do or dare do," Carpenter said. "It was like 100 degrees out and he wanted to jump into the Amazon River.
"Remember now, we’re in the jungle, the water is as clear as a cup of coffee and we’ve been catching piranhas all day. I looked at him and said, ‘You’re freaking nuts.’ He said, ‘I know, now come on Carp. … We can say we swam in the Amazon River. Who do we know that can ever say that?’ I was like, all right, good point, let’s do it."
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For Charlie Manuel, it started when he met Halladay at the 2009 All-Star Game, after then-Rays manager Joe Maddon named him the starter against Manuel’s NL squad, and told him then he’d look good in a Phillies uniform.
Halladay joined the Phillies that offseason, and Manuel became increasingly impressed with his work ethic and fierce competitiveness. But it was Halladay’s humility that stood out. After his perfect game he bought watches, 60 total for his teammates and staff, personalized and inscribed with the linescore and in boxes labeled, "We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay."
"That told me everything I needed to know," Manuel said.
Teammates would see it all the time.
The way Halladay routinely deflected credit from himself in postgame interviews. "The most humble human being I’ve ever met," pitcher Cole Hamels said.
And the way he was generous in giving thanks. After winning the first of his two Cy Youngs in 2003, Halladay took care of his teammates, including buying two high-end fishing rods and reels and a Bass Pro gift card for a young backup catcher who was up for only part of the season: Kevin Cash, now the Rays manager.
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For Brandy, it started shortly after they went from childhood acquaintances in Colorado to something more a few years later after a chance offseason meeting at a gym.
"He wouldn’t ask me for my phone number so I gave it to him," Brandy said. "I went home, walked in the back door and told my mother that I met the man I was going to marry that day.
"We went out that night and played pool, loser buys ice cream. I will say that I did not buy the ice cream. I beat him. So as you all know Roy Halladay does not like to lose, so the very next night, date two, we played pool again."
They married and shared his journey to stardom, winning 203 games, those two Cy Youngs and at least serious discussion about the Hall of Fame, and having two sons, Braden, now 17, and Ryan, 13, who flanked their mom in the front row Tuesday. The house in Odessa was typically full of kids and rescue animals. "Craziness," Brandy said, nervous laughter giving way to tears.
"I’m not sure how to be me without him," she said. "I didn’t know how big my heart was until I felt the amount of hurt in it with him gone."
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Many more stories were told from the crowd that included Hall of Famer Frank Thomas; Phillies owner John Middleton and new manager Gabe Kapler; former GMs Pat Gillick, Ruben Amaro and JP Ricciardi (who read a letter he wrote to Halladay); former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston; and Cash.
And much more will be written, including a forthcoming NTSB report on what happened and caused Halladay’s new Icon A5 sport plane to crash off the Pasco County coast.
But Tuesday said a lot about a life worth celebrating.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.