ST. MARYS, Ont. â€” Roy Halladay remembers it was on a Blue Jays’ trip to Seattle that he realized he was playing for something bigger than a city. He was representing an entire country.
The retired Toronto ace is among the 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, and reminisced about his time playing in Canada with affection.
“I had no idea that there were that many Blue Jays fans that far west. It just baffled me. I figured it was just Toronto,” Halladay said. “I think the first taste of it I got was doing the winter caravan. And all the stops we made and seeing how many people showed up at all these different stops. But you’d go to Seattle and see that many people there, it definitely was something you absolutely did realize as a player. . . you felt like you were representing Canada.
“And that’s something I was very proud of. Every time they played the Canadian national anthem, that was something I was very proud of, especially on the road.”
Former Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero, longtime Baseball Canada president Ray Carter and umpire Doug Hudlin will also be enshrined in St. Marys, Ont., later this year. The Canadian team that won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games will also be inducted.
Halladay was an eight-time all-star whose .661 winning percentage is the best in Jays franchise history. He also ranks second among Jays pitchers in wins (148), shutouts (15) and strikeouts (1,495).
The Denver native calls Toronto his “home away from home.” His 16-year-old son was born in the city. One of his favourite memories is the reception he received at Rogers Centre when he returned as a visiting player with Philadelphia.
“It just really meant a lot to me,” Halladay said. “I always considered it home there, so to get that reaction was phenomenal.”
He cheered from afar during the Blue Jays’ playoff runs the past two seasons, saying with a laugh “I am so jealous, you have no idea. It’s absolutely awesome.”
Halladay, who coaches his two sons, is planning a return to baseball and said he will definitely be working with a team â€” perhaps Toronto â€” by the time spring training opens.
“I don’t know what team it will be with, or in what capacity, although I can say I have talked to the Blue Jays,” Halladay said. “But I really do want to get back into baseball, and I really enjoy working with younger players, younger pitchers, the development of pitchers. . . that kind of whole area is something that really entices me, and something I think I would enjoy.”
In eight seasons with the Expos from 1996 to 2003, Guerrero was a four-time all-star. He also established all-time Expos records for batting average (.323), home runs (234), slugging percentage (.588) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.978).
“I was surprised and excited to hear that I’m being inducted,” the native of the Dominican Republic said through a translator. “I knew that I would need to wait at least one more year to join the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but I’m very pleased to join the Canadian Hall of Fame first, since I was given my first opportunity to play Major League Baseball in Canada.”
Carter was the president of Baseball Canada for from 2000 to 2016, the longest-serving president in the organization’s history. During Carter’s reign, the men’s and womenâ€™s national teams captured 13 international medals, including gold medals at the Pan Am Games in 2011 and 2015. He called the gold-medal game at the 2015 Pan Ams in Toronto one of the highlights of his tenure.
“I was fortunate enough to be sitting directly behind home plate, and when we won, I thought they were my boys, my sons,” Carter said. “I felt so proud to be part of that, I’ll never forget it.”
The late Hudlin, a native of Victoria, served as an umpire in his home province for more than 40 years. He was the first non-American umpire to work the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., in 1967. Seven years later, he returned to umpire the event, making him the first international umpire ever to work two Little League World Series. He died in 2014 at the age of 91.
Managed by Ernie Whitt, Canada won its second straight Pan Am Games gold medal with a thrilling, extra-inning win over the United States on July 19, 2015.
Whitt said he’s never watched the video of his team’s Pan Am victory.
“That just lives in my memory,” Whitt said. “Every major win that we’ve had with the team is etched in stone in my memory, and it’s something that I don’t know whether video would even give it any justice. I like it just the was it is now, in my mind.”
Whitt said there’s something “very special” about Canada’s baseball program.
“One thing they can’t take away from the Canadians is our willingness to win and our desire to win, and our passion that we have to compete at the level that we’re at,” Whitt said. “It’s just how we all come together as one unit. No-one is bigger than the other person, if I asked someone to hit and run or put down a sacrifice bunt, their willingness to do it. . . it’s just an easy job for me as a manager.
“You try to put the kids out in a position where they’re going to be successful, and then they take it from there and I just get out of the way and just go along for the ride and enjoy it.”
The induction ceremony is set for June 24 in St. Marys.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press