Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Roy Halladay II would don cruddy old catcher’s gear in the unfinished basement of his Arvada home and squat down for his pitching prodigy of a son, Roy Halladay III.
It was in those sessions that the younger Halladay, a 1995 Arvada West graduate who died Tuesday at age 40 in a plane crash off the coast of Florida, would lay the groundwork for a convincing case as the greatest baseball player to ever come out of the state of Colorado.
“His dad’s a 6-6, 6-7 guy, and I can still see him catching Roy from all ages in their basement,” said Brad Madden, the Ralston Valley baseball coach who grew up with Halladay and played with him at Arvada West. “Roy would pitch endless hours down there, and his dad was still catching him through high school, looking kind of funny trying to catch a 90-plus mph fastball he had helped his son develop.”
Long before Halladay become an all-star pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies — winning two Cy Young Awards and earning eight all-star selections along the way to a likely Hall of Fame career — he was the big man on campus on Allendale Drive, where as a Wildcat he led this team to the 1994 Class 6A state title. He never lost a game in the state of Colorado in his high school career.
But even then, as a highly touted prospect who would eventually be selected 17th overall in baseball’s amateur draft, for workouts Halladay preferred his basement — and the Wildcats’ field that now bears him name — over the flash of showcase baseball that was quickly becoming the norm for top players at the time.
“He always wanted extra work during the fall and summer, and he’d always do it with the A-West coaching staff,” said Jim Capra, Halladay’s coach at Arvada West. “He didn’t play club ball, didn’t play travel ball. He played for his high school team every single summer. He wasn’t about getting lessons here and doing clinics there, which told me at the time he wasn’t like most other kids.”
Halladay’s 6-6 frame helped make him a dominating pitcher at the high school level with his fastball, but much of his bullpen time at Arvada West was spent perfecting his knuckle curve.
“He was sitting at 93, 94 in high school (with his fastball), and there were a few guys who could touch it, but he developed the knuckle curve that was just as nasty,” said Chad Sigg, Halladay’s catcher for all four years at Arvada West. “That really took his pitching to another level.”
And even long after he left Colorado, the ace nicknamed “Doc” created a ripple effect throughout the state, with his dominance proving that the proper combination of skill and work ethic could enable any area high school pitcher to master his craft at altitude.
“He helped set the tone and pave the way for a lot of Colorado kids who are getting drafted now,” Madden said. “Before, it was kind of unheard of to come to Colorado to even look at a baseball player, let alone take him as the 17th overall pick.”