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“Without heroes, we are all plain people and don’t know how far we can go.”

– Bernard Malamud, “The Natural”.

 

Dear Doc…

Several years ago – I couldn’t tell you when – I stopped looking at athletes as heroes. Perhaps it came from the cynicism of getting older. Perhaps I’d been burned one too many times believing in the moral fibre of a man who could do amazing things on a playing field. I don’t know for sure, and it doesn’t matter now.

What does matter now is that in the face of all that cynicism and wear, you – Roy Halladay – were something different. You were a hero, and perhaps the last one I’ll ever have.

I was able to watch you work so very often. Sometimes for pocket change, sometimes for free.In a time where so many delights in life cost so much money, it’s almost embarrassing how little I had to give to see something so extraordinary.

You last took the ball for my team eight years ago, and I’ve spent every day since then wondering when I’ll see anyone else wearing blue and white do what you could do.

I probably never will, and that should serve as a reminder: to truly realize when something special is happening, because it doesn’t come along all that often.

We’re almost the same age, so I was able to watch your career in real-time. I watched you go from simply being being Roy Halladay to becoming “Doc”.

I could sit here and fill volumes of the amazing feats I watched you turn in from your first game as a Blue Jay to your last, but that’s not really what I want to spend time and effort on. Time is precious, as I’ve clearly come to understand lately.

What I want to spend time on is thanking you for helping me understand what can come from hard work and focus. Much of what you did came from natural talent, but what made you as good as you were was the incredible amount of focus and work you were prepared to give to be that much better. What you achieved came just as much from what was inside your head as what was inside your right arm…maybe more so.

That’s inspiring; the very notion that we all elevate whatever natural gifts we are given with dedication and clarity.

It’s so hard to block out the noise nowadays, so tempting to surrender to it. It’s so much easier just to be “good enough”. What’s the harm in that? If you were only “good enough”, you’d still have earned a comfortable living, still had your moment in the sun. But then, if you’d only been “good enough”, I probably wouldn’t have been as inspired by you as I am.

I guess you know better than I do, right?

Instead, by being so much more than “good enough”, you inspired me – in so many ways on so many days. Not as an athlete, mind you. No, you inspired me about what it means to be a man.

Through you, I learned that getting emotional can be about getting something out, not taking someone down. Through you, I learned to do the job, and not complain. Most of all, through you I learned to cherish a family, to give back to the community, to live life to its fullest, and to walk with quiet dignity.

This is the legacy you leave – the mark on the world that your family will take the most pride in the difficult days ahead. It’s something to take pride in an age where so many struggle to take pride in anything.

Your time as a Blue Jay runs almost parallel to the time my father worked for the team, so in a strange way, it’s fitting that I’ve lost two heroes in twelve months. You might have known his face, probably didn’t know his name, but certainly made an impression on him whenever your paths crossed.

Like you, he believed in hard work. Like you, he taught me what it means to be a man.

So if your paths cross again, please say hello for me…and until then, let me thank you.

For treating me to so many joyous afternoons, sitting in a plastic blue seat in the sun…and for being a role model at a time when so few public figures care to be. I’m truly grateful, and truly inspired.

 

Peace, love, peanuts, and cracker jack,

 

Ryan.