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Winter Meetings interview with Roy Halladay

MLB.com

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, I'm Jay Stenhouse of the Toronto Blue Jays, vice president of communications.

Today is a special day for the Toronto Blue Jays. Today Roy Halladay has signed a contract to once again be a Toronto Blue Jay. First drafted 17th overall in 1995 by the Toronto Blue Jays, today he's chosen to honor our organization by retiring from Major League Baseball as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. In 16 Major League seasons, while pitching with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, his relentless determination led him to two Cy Young awards, a perfect game, a post season no hitter, over 20 career wins and over 2,000 strikeouts, just to list a few of his accomplishments.

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, I'm Jay Stenhouse of the Toronto Blue Jays, vice president of communications.

Today is a special day for the Toronto Blue Jays. Today Roy Halladay has signed a contract to once again be a Toronto Blue Jay. First drafted 17th overall in 1995 by the Toronto Blue Jays, today he's chosen to honor our organization by retiring from Major League Baseball as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. In 16 Major League seasons, while pitching with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, his relentless determination led him to two Cy Young awards, a perfect game, a post season no hitter, over 20 career wins and over 2,000 strikeouts, just to list a few of his accomplishments.

Prior to doing a Q & A, it is now my honor to introduce the newest Blue Jay, Roy Halladay.

ROY HALLADAY: Thank you. First of all, I want to thank the Blue Jays for allowing me to do this. As most people know, I was very lucky to have a lot of people in that organization really develop and help me become the player that I was able to become, and without the organization and support of the people in the organization from the front office to the coaches to the players, it really turned my career around and made a difference in my career. So that's why I'm very fortunate to retire as a Blue Jay.

At the same time, I really want to also reach out to the Phillies and tell them how much I appreciate them and everything they've done. I was talking to a few people, and you know, as much fun as I had in Toronto and as great of an experience that was, and it was really the bulk of my career, Philadelphia was kind of the icing on the cake for me, and to have that chance to play there and get to play in the playoffs and play in that atmosphere was a blessing for my family. So we're very fortunate to have played in two of the greatest cities I could have played in. And really, for not only the cities, but the greatest, the people that we could be involved with. You know, everywhere we went, we ran across tremendous people, very supportive people. You know, even the media.

I was kind of dreading Philadelphia, but you guys aren't as bad as they say you are, so I appreciate it (laughing).

I have, along with the Blue Jays and Phillies hats, I have my new team hats up here. These are the hats of my sons' teams, and I'm helping out coaching. I'm trying not to ruin them. I'm doing the best I can. But these are my new family and my new teams, so I'm looking forward to being a part of them.

I was thinking about the people that I was going to thank today, and a lot of them are in this room. I'm very fortunate to have a lot of them in this room. I really could not sit down and name every single one of them. There has been so many people that have contributed to my career that have helped me along the way that to sit down and name every single one of them would be virtually impossible.

Really, it takes that. I was very fortunate to have a lot of people that backed me, supported me, and through the good times and the bad times. I was very lucky. Our family was very lucky to have those people supporting us.

I do want to extend a special thank you to my mother and father and my two sisters. They were a big part of why I'm here, and really I want to reach out to the front row. The support I've gotten from my family was tremendous. I thought I was going to need confetti. I told Jay, no tissues, but it's hard when they're sitting right in front of you.

But they've been my biggest supporters, they really have, so thank you, guys.

So as far as the decision to retire, we spent a lot of time talking as a family, and for me there was a lot of things that came into play. One, baseball, there's a lot of traveling. There is a lot of time away from family, from loved ones, and I felt like this was a great time for me to get back involved to help my kids. They're starting to strive for their dreams, and that's something I want to be a part of, so I'm looking forward to that.

One of the major factors was there's been stuff written about shoulders and stuff. I've been throwing to my boys, and my shoulder feels as good as it ever has. Unfortunately, I can't get them out, but it feels good.

But the major issue for me is, as I mentioned to some of the media last spring, was my back really became an issue for me. I have two pars fractures, an eroded disk between the L 4, and L 5, and there is a significant setback in there to where the nerves are being pinched, and really, it's just made it hard to pitch with the mechanics I want to pitch with. So over the last two seasons, I've had to change some things, do some things different to be able to throw the ball, and unfortunately, that's led to some shoulder issues. But the big thing has really been the back. Speaking with doctors, they feel like at this point, if I can step away and take some of that high level pressure off of it, it will hopefully allow me to do some regular things and help out with the kids' teams. I'm trying to find a 35 and over basketball league. My wife's already shaking her head.

But I want to be active. I want to continue to do things I enjoy doing, spend time with my family. The biggest thing is I'm trying to avoid surgery. They feel like we can address a lot of things by injections, by physical therapy. But we're trying to avoid having to fuse. That will just lead to more issues down the road. So that is one of the big things we're trying to avoid.

But really, I think it came down to a family decision. I think there are ways to get around those things, and to be able to go out there I didn't feel like I could pitch at the level that I wanted to and felt like I owed to organizations I was going to play for. So we took a lot of time making the decision, but I really feel like it's the right decision for us, and it makes a lot of sense for us. We'll improve quality of life and give me a chance to hopefully not ruin my kids (smiling).

But it's an exciting day for us. There is a lot for me to look forward to. Baseball has been so great to me. My goal is to try and leave baseball better than what I found it, and I've tried to do that in my career. I've tried to be respectful to the game and do things the right way. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability, and moving forward, I'd like to do the same.

I'm sure there are going to be some times where I need to step away and spend some time with family, but I still want to find ways to be involved and hopefully help pass on things that I've learned, and not so much the pitching part or the mental part, but really things that other players have taught me about being a good person, about playing the game the right way, about being respectful to the game, to your teammates, to the organizations you play for. So that's important for me to, hopefully, find a way to pass on in this next chapter of my life.

I'm looking forward to it. My family's looking forward to it. I had to stop my wife from cracking the champagne this morning, but we're definitely excited. It's something we're really looking forward to. Like I said, we've been very blessed, very fortunate. Baseball has given us a lot. It was a tremendous run, tremendous experience, something I'll never forget. So I want to thank so many people in this room for being a part of that, and there are a lot of people who aren't here that also have been a major impact for me.

So any questions, I'll try to answer them as best I can.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Some of the people in attendance today, in case you're curious, include one of Roy's former managers, Jon Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays, as well as all of his general managers are here, Gord Ashe, J.P. Ricciardi, Alex Anthopoulos, and Ruben Amaro.

Q. What was it like the last two seasons? I know you're a proud athlete, so how difficult was that just going to work every day knowing that you couldn't be the pitcher that you were for the ten seasons prior to that?

ROY HALLADAY: It was tough. I think a lot of people who I was close with, players, front office, trainers obviously knew that it was a struggle. It is so much fun to play the game and to go out and compete. I look forward to that fifth day more than anything. To be able to go out there and know that it's probably not going to feel very good and I'm not going to be able to do things the way I want to do them was very frustrating. Not only personally, but I felt like there was a certain responsibility that I owed to my teammates, to the organization, so that part was definitely very challenging for me.

You're trying to give everything you can, but there is something holding you back. That was a challenge for me. Like I said, that was a major factor in why we decided this was the right time is because I want to be able to give everything to myself that I can. I felt like this was a point where I really couldn't do that anymore. I couldn't give them what I wanted to. So from that standpoint, we knew it was the right time.

Q. Was the suddenness of how things complicated on you, I mean, you went from being a Cy Young winner, Cy Young runner up, to struggling, did that make it more difficult for you, do you think, in that it wasn't a steady?

ROY HALLADAY: It was probably more steady than people knew. There were times in the season before where later in the games it would be a challenge. You know, as you get older, that's how things go. You're going to stiffen up. You're going to get tight. I thought it was just due to age. But I know things were starting to change a little bit. I think the frustrating part was in the past I found a way through working out, through research, through talking to trainers, to overcome those things.

Really, it kind of got to the point where as much as we did, we just couldn't fully overcome it. So that became challenging.

But there were little things that kind of led up to it. And going into the last two seasons, I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew there was going to be some things that I was going to have to deal with that I've never dealt with before. But I just wasn't ready yet. I wasn't ready to admit that. I wasn't ready to give up on that, and I wanted to try to find a way to overcome it.

I think really the last two years more than anything kind of helped me understand that this is something as much as I want to change it, I don't know if I really can. And that kind of helped ease the decision for me. I think had two years ago I said, okay, this is it, I would have really regretted it. I think I would have been sitting at home wondering what could I have done? Could I have made it through? Could I have done something different? I think through the two seasons doing everything we did from the exercises, from the treatment, from the information that we gathered, I feel very confident that we explored everything we could. It's just something we couldn't overcome. It's a part of life. It's a part of getting older, and I think you realize that there are new things for you to accomplish in life.

As much as baseball has been a part of my life, there are other things that I want to accomplish, and it became that time to start going after those things.

Q. Have you thought about what it's going to feel like when pitchers are reporting to spring training and you're not there?

ROY HALLADAY: Well, yeah. I'd be knee deep in working out right now. So not doing that I find myself kind of sitting around the house thinking there is something missing here. I should be working out. I should be running. I should be doing something. For a second it's kind of a little bit of panic, and then it kind of sets in. Okay, that's right. I'm retiring now. It's actually a very peaceful feeling.

It's going to take some time. Those things always creep up, those thoughts of this is what I've normally been doing at this point. But like I said, it's been a very it's been a very exciting process for me. I feel very good about it. I think from that standpoint you know, there are always going to be things you miss. As much as I worked out, I'm not going to miss it (laughing). I really am not. I'm not going to miss the cuff weights or the running bowls. I might go out and run for fun every once in a while, short. But the hard part for me is going to be that fifth day, knowing once the season starts April 1st, and the competition, the challenge of going out there and facing the best, that's the one part I'm going to miss.

You know, as a baseball player, you realize that's something you can't do your entire life. There is going to be a point where it comes to an end. I feel fortunate that I tried to absorb every bit of it that I could and poured myself into it. Yeah, I really don't have any regrets, and I think that is the biggest thing. There are going to be parts I miss, but I have no regrets.

Q. When you came to Philly, you said you came because you wanted to win a World Series, played on a couple of very good teams, fell short. What do you remember about those two seasons, and what's it going to be like to walk away falling short of that goal?

ROY HALLADAY: Well, I think I always knew how tough it was to win a World Series, especially being in the AL East. You know, it's not an easy thing to do. Going to Philadelphia, I felt like we really gave ourselves the best chance. Being involved in those playoffs was probably some of the most memorable experiences I'll have in baseball, from the camaraderie standpoint, to being in that atmosphere, playing in the playoffs. I think the one thing I took away from that is you can have the best team on paper. You can have the guy who's want it the most. But when the squirrel runs across home plate while your team is trying to pitch, there is nothing you can do about that. So you really start to realize there are a lot of things out of your control. It takes more than nine guys. It takes nine guys, and it takes the 25 on the roster. It takes the coaches, the staff, and it takes a lot of luck.

I'm very fortunate I had the chance to get to the playoffs, to experience that atmosphere. I've always wanted to win a World Series. You know, hopefully down the road I can be a part of it in a different aspect. But it's something I definitely wanted, but I think having the chance to be in the playoffs to experience the atmosphere, I am more comfortable knowing I came up a little bit short than having never gotten that shot.

So, very grateful to have that opportunity, and especially to have it with the Phillies and the guys that we had on that team. Those are memories I'll never forget.

Q. You were talking about how memorable those playoff runs were with the Phillies. Any consideration to retiring with them?

ROY HALLADAY: It was very tough for me. I'd love to retire with two teams. I don't think that's possible. I just don't see how it could happen. Really, I felt like, you know, I want the Phillies organization to know, I want the fans to know, how much I enjoyed my time there, how much they meant to me, how much they meant to my family, and what a major part of my career they were.

But to me the biggest thing was had I not been fortunate enough to come up with the Blue Jays and have the people around me that I did and have the people develop me that I did, I would have never had that chance to play for the Phillies. I very easily could have been out of baseball in 2000, 2001 and never had a shot. So to me that was the most important thing was I felt like everything that the organization had done for me, the player that they allowed me to become, I felt like it was really important to acknowledge that.

Had I not had those chances, I would have never been able to play for the Phillies, so that's something I wanted to acknowledge.

Q. As you reflect on your career today, what are you most proud of? If you could write your own summary, how do you want to be remembered?

ROY HALLADAY: I think for me it was just not quitting. I think at any point, not quitting. I definitely had some bumps in the road. And even when things were good, you know, you're going to have bad games. You're going to have things that you're going to have to overcome. I didn't ever feel like when I took the mound that I gave anything less than my best effort. Sometimes it sounds cliché, it sounds easy enough, but when things aren't going your way, when there are other things in the back of your head going on, it's not easy to always go out there and give everything you have. I'm really proud of the fact that I feel like I was able to do that. Even in games where I had a game, I remember, that really stood out for me. One of the favorite games I ever pitched in Detroit. We won 9 8, and I gave up eight runs, but I pitched eight innings and was able to pick up a win. To me that really stood out. That's a game where you don't give up. You continue to grind. You continue to battle. You continue to work. And I took a lot of pride in the fact that even when things were bad and things looked bleak, I was going to continue to give my best effort.

Q. How do you explain your lasting relationship with the Toronto fans where you leave town in your prime and yet they still love you?

ROY HALLADAY: I'm very fortunate. I hope that works with the Phillies. I know they don't like guys leaving (smiling). But I was very fortunate. For me it was very important to not only let the organization and the players that I was with know, but also the fans, how much they meant to me. They really did. Obviously, Toronto is a big hockey town, but wherever I went, the people were very gracious. They were respectful, they were nice. I experienced the same thing in Philadelphia. Even sometimes when things are bad, I'd go out and people would come up and shake your hand and it's great to meet you. Thank you for being here. I really always appreciated those things. That meant a lot to me that these fans were coming up and acknowledging what you were doing on the field and what you were doing off the field.

I've always tried to do the best I could to really acknowledge that. I've been very fortunate that I played two places where the fans have been extremely supportive. They may boo when you're on the field, but you run into them on the street or in a restaurant and they're the first ones that come up and shake your hand and smile and greet you. So that's something I'll never forget. It happened in Toronto. It happened in Philadelphia. But Toronto was hard for me. As much as I loved it there, I felt like I needed to make a decision to give myself a chance to get to the playoffs, and thankfully the fans understood that and were very supportive. Hopefully they'll get a chance to experience that also, because it is a tremendous feeling.

Q. You mentioned 2000 2001 being sent down. Can I ask what you thought your reality might be at that point in your career? And I was thinking part of the pay it forward is to let players know that is not the end. That doesn't have to be where things end up for players.

ROY HALLADAY: Right. It was tough. I think there was a period of time where I didn't know what was going to happen, where I probably wasn't as positive as I could be about what my future was going to be. But I think through the support of my wife and people in the organization, I was able to find people that really helped me see the mental side of it and see the positives. That's really where I felt like my career changed was I started thinking I'm going to go out and do everything I possibly can. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, I can walk away knowing that I poured everything I had into it. I was very fortunate to have that experience because that stuck with me my entire career. It was something that was always a reminder in the back of my head, that if I go out there and don't give everything I have and don't pour everything into it, I could find myself in that exact same situation in a heartbeat.

I was very fortunate to have that experience. I think not very many players have that. Just to realize how quickly something could be taken away from you, it's very easy to see that. The only way I'm going to be satisfied with myself and being able to look at myself in the mirror is knowing I did everything I possibly could. If things don't work out, I can accept that. But it's hard for me to see other players, knowing the situation that I went through, not be able to pour themselves into it, because it can disappear quickly. It's such a tremendous opportunity to play Major League Baseball that you just don't want that to slip away. Not only for yourself, but for other players. So to really reach out to guys and tell them, you know, you may have been a great player your whole life, but this is a whole different thing. It can disappear very quickly. So my biggest thing to those guys and to myself was continue to pour yourself. That is the only way you can look in the mirror, it really is, knowing you gave everything you could.

Q. The era when pitchers stopped pitching deep into games and throwing big total innings of the season like you did, do you think you're here today to some degree because of that, because your body gave in earlier than it might have if you went a different way? Do you have any regrets?

ROY HALLADAY: No. Like I said, I have no regrets. I wanted to go out and be in the game as long as I possibly could. As a pitcher, you're only out there once every five days, so I don't want to give up the ball. I want to stay out there as long as I can, because I know I'm going to have to sit and think about it for another four days, and that's tough to do.

I don't. If I were given the ball today, I'd want to go and pitch as long as I possibly could. That's something I really felt good about. You know, if my career's two years, three years shorter than it could have been because I wanted to go out and pitch deep into games, I'm fine with that. I would never maybe there were times I shouldn't have had the ball, but I would never go up and tell anybody that. I wanted to keep it as long as I possibly could. And as long as I felt like I wasn't hurting our chances, I was going to keep trying to go.

So that was just kind of like we were just talking about, the mentality that I realized how quickly things can go away. You want to take every chance you have, every second you have to continue to pitch. You could be in a car accident on the way home and never get that chance again. So when I was out there, I really wanted to be there as long as I possibly could and continue to compete. I really loved the competition. I really did. That was a big part of it. To me, the games were decided late in the game. That was when it became fun.

Q. Do you think others share that attitude in this game now that completing a game is the best thing a pitcher can do? Why do you think people have gotten away from that more and more?

ROY HALLADAY: Well, I think the game has become very specialized. There is a lot to me a lot better pitchers available in the bullpen now than there was before. And, you know, I was fortunate to have a chance to continue to pitch and go out there and pitch. I really felt like the games that I started, those were my games. Those were my chances to pitch. I wasn't always willing to let somebody else decide what was going to happen. You know, it cost me a few games, but that's the fun of the competition. That is the fun of the game. Being in those situations where the game is on the line, that's where it becomes a challenge.

I think there are a lot of pitchers who would love to continue to be deep, but there are such good pitchers now in the back of the bullpen and the games are becoming so important now with the extra wildcards. Every game means something. The managers and the coaches are all realizing that. If we can make it a six inning game with a quality bullpen, that may be the best way to go. I think from that aspect, things are definitely changing. We've seen that over the last 20, 30 years that it's really evolved at the back end of the bullpens.

For me, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to decide the game. I was fortunate to have some managers and some organizations that gave me that opportunity.

Q. Who influenced you the most throughout your career?

ROY HALLADAY: That's tough. I think from an outside standpoint, I was very fortunate. As a young player, I had a scout, Buzz Campbell who really kind of helped me develop.

Once I got into Major League Baseball, and really when I felt like I was able to start blossoming, was because of Harvey Dorfman, who really turned my career around from a mental standpoint. I think as far as players, I was very fortunate to come up around Pat Hankins, Chris Carpenter. I got to see Roger Clemens. I came around some quality people. I think Pat Hankins was one of the best guys I could ever have been around. He respected the game. He respected other players. He taught me so much sitting on the bench. That doesn't happen a lot anymore where a veteran guy takes a younger guy and tells him to quit flicking sunflower seeds; it's not professional. It's just stuff like that that you learn from a guy that I was very fortunate to be around some pretty special people.

There are so many others. There are so many others. Coaches, managers, front office people, like I said, I couldn't name them all.

But I think those are two or three guys that really had a major impact on my career. A lot of them are sitting in this room and a lot of people who gave me opportunities are in this room. I can't even begin to thank all the people I need to thank. That would be an entire press conference, I think, in its own.

Q. That last night in Miami did you believe you may have thrown that last pitch that night as you walked out of that clubhouse or was the retirement talk something that blossomed as you got home and thought about things?

ROY HALLADAY: No, I wasn't thinking about it then. I think at that point it was, okay, what can I do now? What is the next step to make this better? Then once the off season progressed and talking to my wife, talking to some back doctors and really getting the big picture, I think what changed for me was starting to look at the future, starting to look down the road. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? I think looking at that part of it, I started to realize that this was the right decision to make.

It's hard to look past that sometimes and turn the page on something you love so much. But I think looking down the road and seeing my sons in the same situation I was in when I was their age and having dreams of things they want to achieve, I realized that this needs to become a priority for me and the best way for me to do that is to retire and not continue to put the strain on my body and get myself in a situation where they have to help me stand up to throw batting practice. So that was a big factor for me.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you Roy and congratulations.

ROY HALLADAY: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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