December 29, 2017

Excuse Me… I’m Working

The Day I discovered what Roy Halladay was all about.

Roy Halladay was a Blue Jay for 12 seasons and during that time I must have interviewed him, or been in a post game scrum of his, hundreds of times. One moment, however, stands out for me. It showed me what he was all about; insight into what made him tick, something I didn’t understand until many years later.

It was early in spring training February, 2009. Speculation was already rampant that it would be his final season. I had a feature interview scheduled with Halladay and I was at the ballpark early in the morning to set up. I was expecting it to take place later in the day, following the team workout, but if for some reason he wanted to do it prior to the workout, I wanted to be ready and not miss my opportunity.

Around 8:15am we were all ready to go, and at that moment I see Doc walking across a back field, towards the clubhouse. Could it be that he wrapped up early and wanted to get the interview out of the way?  As he approached, I asked my cameraman to be ready to shoot, just in case this was our one and only chance.

He was now within earshot so I looked at him and said “Good morning, Doc”. He looked at me, but didn’t reply. I then foolishly followed up with “Are we still good for today?” I barely got to the word “still” when he cut me off, looked directly into my eyes and said quite sternly, “Excuse me….I’m working”.  He then continued to walk with a purpose towards and into the clubhouse.

The next voice I heard was of Blue Jays pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg, who appeared to be holding in a chuckle as he quipped to me, “Did you just try to speak to Doc? Oh man, even I don’t speak to Doc when he’s on the field.”

Well, that’s it I thought. I was convinced I had completely blown my chances. I’ve just pissed off a Cy Young award pitcher.

I figured I would wait and hope for the best. That early in camp most players are wrapped up for the day and gone by noon. I knew Halladay would take much longer, but by 2:00 I figured he probably slipped out a back door to avoid me. I decided to give it until 2:30. If he didn’t show by then, I would make the dreaded call to the boss to say there will be no Roy Halladay interview.

I was about to tell my cameraman to pack up, it’s over, when the clubhouse door opens and it’s Doc. He’s dressed in a polo shirt, jeans and white sneakers. He’s clearly finished for the day, and I’m convinced he’s going to walk right past me, head to his car and drive home.

Instead, he looks at me right in the eyes:

Doc: “You ready to go?”

Me: “Oh, you’re still ok to do this?”

Doc: “That was the plan, wasn’t it?”

Me: “For sure, I just thought you’d want to cancel after what happened this morning.”

Doc: “What happened?”

He literally looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about.

Me: “I tried to speak to you this morning when you were on the field.”

Doc: “Oh…ya, sorry about that. You have to understand, when I’m on the field, that’s my workspace, and I cannot be disturbed. I’m sorry if I was hard on you.”

Did Roy Halladay actually just apologize to me? It sure sounded that way. He proceeded to take a seat on the chair we had placed for him, mic himself up, and over the next 15 minutes, gave me a terrific interview.

That day I learned something that every teammate of his needed to know to truly understand Doc. When he’s working…and that would be any start day, or as Jesse Litsch told me, even on a day when he’s throwing a side session in the bullpen, you give him his space, and do not disturb. Once he punches out for the day, he’s very approachable, gracious with his time, and happy to share his knowledge (ok maybe some things he kept to himself).

Thank you Roy Halladay..for the interview, for your honesty, for being an inspiration to your teammates and really, all ball players. Thanks for being real.

Rest in Peace Doc.

To listen to Outta The Park’s tribute to Roy Halladay, please click here.

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