So Long, Doc.

(c)JerseyStyle_Photography_Doc Halladay_2010_8960

Every now and then, you have to sit back and just appreciate what’s going on around you, especially if you’re a sports fan.

When Michale Jordan was in his prime, I remember making a conscious effort to watch on TV when he played. You never knew what he was going to do, and you wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.

It’s going on now with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. These two NFL quarterbacks are at the top of their sport now. It’s fun to watch.

Being a Philadelphia Phillies baseball fan, I’ve had a roller-coaster rooting experience with them. I stick with them through thick and thin, and recently, it had paid off. The team had done well with some pretty good players.

One of those players was pitcher Roy “Doc” Halladay. While he spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, he spent the last few years of his career with the Phillies.

Yesterday, after two final lackluster, injury-plagued seasons, he announced his retirement.

Aside from the near mechanical, Terminator-isque way he prepared for games, a couple of things stick out about Roy:

* He wasn’t a natural. Early in his career, he was lousy. Got sent down to the minors. Most players would bristle at this demotion. Doc took it, let a coach rework his pitching motion and mechanics, took more interest in preparing for games and fitness, came back to the major leagues and put up some incredible numbers: For a 10-season stretch from 2002 to 2011, Roy was about the best pitcher in baseball. Over that time, the righty went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA, made seven All-Star teams, and won two Cy Young Awards. He finishes his career with 203 wins, 2117 strikeouts, a 3.38 earned run average. He could very well make the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame.

* He had talent but he worked at it. He was quiet, unassuming but was the first guy at the park to work out, keep himself in shape, and just went out, did his job and got things done.

I’m glad to say I saw Doc pitch a couple of times, one being the night in September 2010 when he won his 20th game of the season. The 20-win season is a big accomplishment for any pitcher, a high-water mark if you will. In his 16-year career, he only did it three times (I actually though he had done it more before I checked his stats.)

When I saw him in September, it would be the third and last time he’d win 20 games.

I put together a short multimedia piece of that game, The Last Evening Of Summer.

Then, a few weeks later, in October 2010, he did something else. I was watching the Phillies, trying to get a glimpse of the end of the Cincinnati Reds/Phillies playoff game, I got the sense that something historic was happening.

But first, I had to try to convince Olivia, then 3 year old, that we should watch the end of the game rather than our usual 7:30-to-8:00 TV fare, Go, Diego, Go. Olivia was in a compliant mood so when I said “Wanna watch the Phillies with me?” she said okay.

As I helped her climb up on the bed, I said “I think we’re going to watch a man do something special now.”

Roy then finished throwing just the second no-hitter in the Major League Baseball’s postseason since Don Larsen did it (while pitching a perfect game – no base runners) in 1956.

I’ll never forget Liv, as we watched the Roy on the mound, and the passionate Phillies fans screaming and waving their rally towels say:

Liv turned to me and said, “When I grow up, I wanna play baseball with Roy.”

Well, she won’t get that shot, but I’m happy I got a chance to see him pitch.

So long, Doc. Thanks for being one of the great ones.

© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2013

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