Scout who drafted Halladay shares '95 report

Wilken tried to connect with late pitcher the day before crash

November 8th, 2017

On Monday, Arizona Diamondbacks scout Tim Wilken stopped by a high school baseball field near Clearwater, Fla. He wanted to give the Calvary Christian pitching coach Roy Halladay a copy of the scouting report from 1995 when Wilken, then with the Blue Jays, first saw the right-handed pitcher Toronto would draft in the first round two months later.

Halladay wasn't at the game. On Tuesday, Wilken and the rest of the baseball world were shocked by the news that Halladay had died at the age of 40 when the ICON A5 plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.

:: Roy Halladay, 1977-2017 ::

"He's a champ, and went way too early," Wilken said Wednesday.

The first time Wilken saw Halladay was April 14, 1995. Halladay was a starter for Arvada (Colo.) West High School.

Now a scout with the Diamondbacks and former director of scouting for the Cubs, Wilken wasn't the only one interested in the giant-sized pitcher. Wilken estimated there were about 24 other scouts at the game.

In his report, Wilken gave Halladay an overall score of 95 out of 100. Under "Abilities," Wilken wrote: "V. quick arm, loose and flexible delivery. Plus to plus plus FB with good running life with leverage to his delivery. Good rotation and spin to knuckle CB. Very coordinated delivery and repats (sic) his delivery good. Competes well with good feel. Very good finish to delivery."

In the summation, Wilken wrote that Halladay was a "Power pitcher with good pitching balance and two plus plus power pitches with good command and very good ability to repeat his delivery. Will get stronger, competes well and good feel. 1st round."

Halladay was taken by the Blue Jays in the first round, although Wilken was lucky. Toronto's first pick wasn't until No. 17.

"There's a lot of teams at that time that weren't willing to take high school pitchers in the first round, even though Kerry Wood was in the same Draft," Wilken said of the 1995 Draft in which Wood, taken by the Cubs, was the first pitcher selected and fourth player drafted overall.

"There was controversy about Roy having a one-piece arm action, which is like a vertical arm without a bend in it," Wilken said. "I thought there was enough movement or bend in his arm where he could manipulate -- he had a knuckle curve at the time. People didn't know how to grade a knuckle curve because not many people had thrown it."

The Phillies also were interested in Halladay, but Wilken said they also had their eyes on outfielder Reggie Taylor. The Pirates liked Taylor, too, but instead picked shortstop Chad Hermansen at No. 10. The Phillies got Taylor at No. 14, and Halladay was there for the Blue Jays at No. 17.

"The ironic thing is, we were going to take a shortstop that the Cardinals liked, and I think he got as high as Double-A," Wilken said. "Sometimes good things can happen, and sometimes not so good things."

One of the things that impressed Wilken about Halladay was his stamina, and he credited a part-time scout, Bus Campbell, with helping the pitcher develop that.

"He was Roy's mentor from age 13 on," Wilken said. "When Roy got to his senior year that fall, Bus told him he wanted him to start running cross country. Roy finished third in the state, I think. Up there in Colorado with the altitude and stuff, you could see why he was such a chiseled starter."

The stories of Halladay's devotion to his workouts are legendary. Wilken recalled that someone beat Halladay to the ballpark one day, arriving at 5 a.m.

"The next day, Roy was there at 4:45," Wilken said. "It was the silent competitiveness of Roy."

Halladay's Calvary Christian team went 35-0 and won the Florida State Championship. One of Halladay's sons was on the team, as well as Miguel Cairo's son.

"I snuck in to see a game there last spring," Wilken said. "I saw Roy. It was still the same monster smile. He asked me to come down to the bullpen to watch this pitcher warm up before the game."

Wilken wanted Halladay to have the scouting report, which is why he stopped by on Monday.

"I guess he had to fly out early in the morning and he wasn't there that night," Wilken said. "I was going to hand [the report] to him. I wanted him to know what went into that.

"The irony of that is going the night before -- and he wasn't there."