Still feels strange saying it. Roy Halladay, 2-time Cy Young winner, million time All Star, future Hall of Famer, and only 40 years old, died in a plane crash yesterday. I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw someone retweet something along the lines of “RIP Doc.” I just ignored it, because that could mean anything. Then I saw more and more similar tweets, then I saw the reports about the plane crash. Then it became real. The police on the scene announced Roy Halladay, the pilot, had died. It was a shock. It’s always a shock when I get the notification that a current or recently retired athlete died. Maybe it’s because I still have the mind of a 12-year-old and these guys are all superhuman to me. They’re all in perfect shape and have more physical gifts than the rest of us can dream of, they don’t die. They don’t get hurt outside the playing field. But, as we’ve been getting reminded of far too frequently these days, they’re mortal just like the rest of us.
When the news first broke, I wasn’t in a position to write about it, so I decided to sleep on it and reflect about what Roy Halladay meant to me (because that’s what really matters, right?). Anyone around my age from my part of the country essentially grew up with Roy heavily involved in their development as a baseball fan. I hit my peak baseball viewership at nearly the same time Roy overcame his early-career woes and became the dominant All Star he was for over a decade. I saw him face the Red Sox a thousand times, and while the Sox typically hit him fairly well, it was never a comfortable experience. He had an intimidating demeanor and delivery that always made it seem like he knew something the hitter didn’t, that he had a grander scheme that no one else could comprehend. I also never hated him, which, believe me, was no small feat. Since I always liked my parents and performed well in school, pretty much all of my pubescent angst was concentrated on sports. I hated more athletes in middle school than I think I could even name today. Anyone who ever performed well against one of my teams, or really anyone who didn’t play for one of my teams who ever received any kind of praise for multiple days on PTI or SportsCenter I hated passionately. But I never hated Roy. I think subconsciously, he was always one of my favorite players to watch. Home runs and endless hit parades are fun every now and then and in video games, but in terms of actually watching baseball, Roy embodied every positive quality a pitcher could have: he worked quickly, he threw strikes, he never walked anybody, he pitched to his defense, he always went at least 7 innings. Fast moving baseball games are legitimately some of the best things in sports, and any game with Roy on the hill was almost guaranteed to be under 3 hours. Sure, he was a great, dominant pitcher, but his stuff probably won’t be what I remember him for. It’ll be his ability to make palatable, aesthetically pleasing baseball games, his playoff no-hitter (which doubled as the first playoff baseball game I watched in college, whatever that means), and his reputation for being one of the nicest, most genuine guys in baseball. All of those things should go on his plaque in Cooperstown.
This also made me think about flying. I think a lot of people are going to take this one, tragic incident and be like “why was he flying?” or “this is why I don’t like small planes,” or “this is why you should stay on the ground,” or any similar take. Personally, I love flying. Love, love, love it. Everyone in the world but me hates airports and flying, but I’m okay with that. I also don’t know if I’ve ever said this out loud before, but one of my biggest dreams is to someday get my pilot’s license. I want to fly planes, I want to fly helicopters, all of it. I’ve just always wanted to be the guy that knows how to operate a bunch of different vehicles. Whenever I think of what role I would want in a criminal organization, I’ve always said that if I can’t be the mastermind, I want to be the chauffeur who also flies the company plane and pilots the submarine and all of that. And, clearly, Roy was the same way. He loved flying. If you followed him on Twitter you know he lived for it. It was his biggest passion outside of baseball. You don’t question why someone was driving if they get into a car crash. He died doing something he loved. In the end, that’s all we can really ask for. R.I.P. Roy Halladay.