Hal­la­day was Canada’s pitcher

National Post (Latest Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS - Adam Ur­back Adam Ur­back re­ceived his Mas­ter’s of Sci­ence from the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto and is cur­rently study­ing medicine at Ben- Gu­rion uni­ver­sity in Is­rael.

The news of Roy Hal­la­day’s death in a plane crash at the age of 40 has shocked fans across the na­tion. He wasn’t just a Blue Jays pitcher; he was Canada’s pitcher. And he saved Toronto from 20 years of Blue Jays medi­ocrity.

The 2000s were a time when in­ter­est in base­ball in the city was wan­ing — there was very lit­tle to cheer about, and the num­ber of empty seats in the bleach­ers showed that. The other Can- adian team, the Mon­treal Ex­pos, had al­ready re­lo­cated to Wash­ing­ton, and Toronto fans could be for­given f or t hink­ing t heir t eam might be headed down that same path. But Blue Jays fans still had some­thing to cheer about: they had Hal­la­day.

These were the days of “Toonie Tues­days” and Gus­tavo Chacin cologne give­aways — any­thing to get bod­ies in seats. But the one thing Blue Jays fans could look for­ward to was a Hal­la­day start ev­ery five days.

I was a kid at the time, but I can still re­mem­ber the ex­cite­ment of go­ing to a Blue Jays game — a team most l i kely ap­proach­ing the bot­tom of the AL East at that point — to watch a Hal­la­day start.

Sure, you knew that the Jays would prob­a­bly not be com­pet­ing in Oc­to­ber, but you were nev­er­the­less cer­tain to wit­ness a per­for­mance by a win­ner: a fu­ture hall- of- famer, a Cy Young cham­pion, and, most im­por­tantly, a standup hu­man be­ing.

Hal­la­day paired up with the Hos­pi­tal for Sick Chil- dren to cre­ate Doc’s Box, a lux­ury suite from which kids be­ing treated at the hos­pi­tal could watch the game. He do­nated $ 100,000 a year to the Jays Care Foun­da­tion. And when he was traded to the Philadel­phia Phillies in 2009, he took out a full-page ad in the Toronto Sun that said: “Toronto will for­ever have a spe­cial place in my heart. The mem­o­ries will last a life­time and so will my grat­i­tude.”

Be­fore he re­tired in 2013, he made a fi­nal trib­ute to his Toronto fans: he signed a one-day con­tract so he could re­tire as a Blue Jay.

Be­ing born in the nineties, I never re­ally wit­nessed Blue Jays suc­cess un­til re­cently. I was too young to re­mem­ber the back- to- back World Se­ries wins in the early ’ 90s, so I had to wait decades to fi­nally wit­ness a Blue Jays play­off game. But dur­ing that time, Roy Hal­la­day, “the Doc,” served as a child­hood hero to me and many of my gen­er­a­tion.

For the fans that came be­fore me, the Blue Jays heroes in­clude greats like Joe “touch em all” Carter, and Roberto Alo­mar ( the only player to be in­ducted into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay). For the fans that came af­ter me, there is the leg­end Jose Bautista (of bat­flip fame).

But Hal­la­day was a hero for ev­ery­one: he kept Blue Jays fan­dom alive dur­ing those me­diocre cou­ple decades, and paved the way for bat flips, monumental home runs and a re­turn to Blue Jays post sea­son games.

Roy Hal­la­day will leave an in­deli­ble mark on the Blue Jays fran­chise. He will be missed.

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