Halladay's message to Phillies fans

PHOENIX - From the first sight of him in a Phillies uniform, drenched in sweat before 8 o'clock on a cool February morning in Clearwater, Fla., or still wearing that uniform after his last playoff game, an excruciating loss to St. Louis two autumns ago, there's one thing you can say without hesitation about Roy Halladay. The man cares.

Fueled by the fact that he has never pitched in a World Series, let alone ever been fitted for a championship ring, Halladay's preparation for each season, for each start, for each inning, is legendary.

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YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Roy Halladay: 'I feel bad for the fans that I'm missing the time.'

The only thing that might match the care Halladay puts into his craft is his competitiveness.

On game day, as he funnels the carefully calculated information from his notebooks to his arm by way of his brain, you do not want to accidentally get in Halladay's way. You try to avoid eye contact at all costs.

So when Halladay's body began to betray him in the last 14 months, he continued to soldier on, using the same tools that earned him the unofficial title as baseball's best pitcher in an attempt to overcome the sudden physical challenge.

Halladay lost the battle. He'll have surgery Wednesday, a day after his 36th birthday, to clean out his right shoulder. Halladay expects to return in 2013. But he also will miss a large chunk of the season.

Because of that - and because of the very un-Halladay numbers he put forth in the last two seasons - the pitcher felt as if he had to deliver an apology to Philadelphia. So, before the Phils took batting practice yesterday afternoon at Chase Field, Halladay took a seat in the dugout and called over the small contingent of Philly media. He said he had something to say to Phillies fans. The following is that conversation, beginning with a 4-plus minute statement from Halladay, in its entirety:

"I've been thinking just the last couple of days, I just felt like I should address the fans," Halladay began. "I know there is a lot of mixed opinions on pitching, not pitching, all that kind of stuff. I know there are people who are disappointed about how I pitched the last 2 years. I know there are a lot of people who are very supportive.

"So, one, I just wanted to thank them for their support. And my heart goes out to all of the people who spend all of their money and go out to the games and don't get to see what they want to see. I know I'm not the whole team. There are still a lot of guys out there, and it's a fun team to watch. But I feel bad that I'm missing the time that I am. I feel bad for the fans that I'm missing the time.

"It's tough. You feel an obligation to the organization, to your teammates, to the fans to try to go out and pitch. Especially on a competitive team that sells out. For me, that was a big factor. If I'm playing for a last-place team and there's things going on, you maybe speak up. But we have a chance to go win a World Series, and we have sellouts, and fans have expectations. You want to do everything you can to try to make it work.

"Really, that was a lot of the reason I tried to keep going. Like I said, I never really felt the pain. I just wanted to reach out to the fans, thank them for their support and apologize to the ones who pay the money and show up in the second inning and it's 9-0. I apologize to the fans that I won't be out there for 3 months.

"I don't feel like I have to apologize to the team, because I think they know. I just want the fans to know that I'm thinking about them. I don't take that for granted. I don't take playing for Philadelphia for granted."

Reporter: "Why or when did this start to weigh on you, your last start?"

Halladay: "No, it bothered me last year, it bothered me this year. Anytime you go out there and pitch poorly. First and foremost, I felt bad for my team. I felt I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing. And then you start to think about it and you think, 'Man, all of these people are paying good money, they're showing up and they've been so supportive over the years, and they're not getting what they want either.' It's just something you think about. Like I said, my teammates know I want to be out there. I feel like the fans are a very important part of it, too.

"It's hard to explain how much you appreciate them when you come from places where you don't have fans like that. I think it's important to recognize them. The good and the bad. I understand that some people are upset, and that's fine, that's a part of it. I'm not trying to sway their opinion. If they don't like me, they don't like me. That's fine. I think they mean a lot to the organization, they mean a lot to Philadelphia. We couldn't do what we do here without them spending they money to come see games. I think that sometimes gets overlooked in sports. They're a big part of the team success."

Reporter: "But you're probably upset you won't be out there too, right?"

Halladay: "Definitely. It's hard to swallow. But like I said, I've always tried to be optimistic. That's what you try to focus on. It's too easy to look at the bad stuff. The hard part is sometimes it's things you can't control, and I think you have to recognize that. This is one of those things where it got to the point where I couldn't control it. And I had to get things taken care of."

Reporter: "Doc, I don't know anyone who doesn't like you."

Halladay: "If I paid $60 and the team was down, 9-0, when I showed up, I wouldn't like me."

Reporter: "That's little-picture stuff, though, not big-picture stuff."

Halladay: "Yeah. But my heart goes out to them. And to my team. I just wanted to make sure . . . I felt they're a big part of everything and I've always appreciated their support."

 


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21