DENVER -- Roy Halladay, the greatest starting pitcher the state of Colorado has every produced, died Tuesday in a plane crash in the gulf of Mexico.
He was 40.
As the news speckled my Twitter timeline, I gasped. My phone began receiving texts. This wasn't supposed to happen, not to the Halladay I knew and covered in the big leagues. Halladay approached baseball with the consistency of a metronome. If the Terminator had a been a pitcher, Halladay would have landed the role.
I will never forget arriving five hours before Colorado Rockies' games at Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia and seeing Halladay running the concourse. His eyes stared forward, his feet pounding the cement, oblivious to onlookers as he completed his goal.
This type of dedication first manifest publicly at Arvada West High School. Halladay morphed from a starter to a legend at A-West where his jersey is retired and the field bears his name. As a 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior in 1995, he delivered a 10-1 record with 0.55 ERA with 105 strikeouts. The Blue Jays drafted him with the 17th overall pick, making it easy for Halladay to pass on his commitment to the University of Arizona. As a colleague said today, "Everyone in Arvada in their 30s and 40s has a story about Roy."
Halladay signed with Toronto and began one of the most fascinating journeys to big league stardom. He reached The Show in 1998 as a September call-up, but bottomed out in his third season with a 4-7 record and 10.64 ERA. He reinvented himself in Class-A ball, changing his delivery to a lower arm angle, a humbling project unheard of for a prospect of his ilk. All it did was turn Halladay into one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.
Halladay will receive strong consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rich "Goose" Gossage, a longtime star closer for the Yankees, is the lone Colorado native in Cooperstown.
"Facing Doc, I had my hands full. Not only was his stuff second to none, he just competed at the highest level. He did not give in," former Rockies and Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzi told me Tuesday night. "I got the chance to meet him a few occasions. He was a true professional, and his presence was felt."
Halladay became one of six pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in both the American (2003 with Toronto) and National League (2010 with Philadelphia). Halladay was an eight-time All-Star and led the league in complete games seven times. He finished his 16-year career with a 203-105 record with a 3.38 ERA. Statistically, he was considered the sport's best in four different seasons.
"It's unfortunate to lose anybody in the fraternity of baseball," former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs told Denver7. "Just watching him, everybody knew who 'Doc' Halladay was. He was untouchable."
Halladay earned teammates' respect because of his dedication to his craft. He was a like shark. No wasted movement. He had a singular purpose when he stepped onto the mound.
"Gone too soon my friend!!! Blessed to have shared the field you as a teammate, competitor, friend and more importantly a brother," tweeted former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino. "Praying for (wife) Brandy and (children) Ryan and Brayden."
Added former big league pitcher Dan Haren, "I wanted to be Roy Halladay. I’m heartbroken, rest easy Doc."
In his first postseason start, Halladay threw the second no-hitter in playoff history on Oct. 6, 2010 in the Phillies' win over the Reds.
"He was the ace of all aces," said fellow big leaguer Ryan Dempster on MLB Network.
Halladay enjoyed retirement with his family, coaching kids in baseball and earning his pilot's license. He last pitched in 2013. He tweeted regularly about his love for flying.
Halladay was not a talker, rarely engaging with the media. It did not matter. His performance screamed of his greatness. His style would have fit in a black-and-white film. Halladay was everything teammates wanted to be as a player. He earned their reverence and respect.
"The Ultimate Warrior. The hardest working teammate ever!" tweeted Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.
I was in Philadelphia last weekend covering the Broncos. When I drove by the ballpark, I thought of Halladay and former Cherry Creek star Brad Lidge. Reaching the big leagues is a staggering accomplishment, and I so admire those who have represented our state of Colorado.
And I simply loved watching Halladay pitch. The efficiency, the knuckle curve, it was mesmerizing. It was hard to wrap the mind around his outings, his durability, his desire to shift his schedule to face the toughest opponents. But nothing compares to trying to reconcile today's news.
One of the state's all-time greats is gone. And a wife and boys have lost a husband and a father.
Rest in peace, Doc.
"We are numb over the very tragic news about Roy Halladay's untimely death," the Phillies said in a statement. "There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play the game."
Arvada West High School issued a statement Tuesday afternoon on Halladay’s death:
“The Arvada West community is sorry to hear about the passing of Roy Halladay today. We were proud to have him on our team as a Wildcat. Roy Halladay was a three-sport athlete at Arvada West High School in cross country, basketball and baseball. He led the Arvada West baseball team to the 6 A State Championship title in 1994. He was described as “an ace right hander” who led the Wildcats to a return appearance in the class 6 A prep championship game in 1995. Also in 1995 he was named All District, All State, All American and Player of the Year for baseball. While playing for both the American and National leagues, Roy was a two-time Cy Young Award Winner for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 and Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. He was an eight-time All Star Team selection. Roy Halladay was very generous to the Arvada West athletic program, he donated resources that are still supporting students today. Our thoughts are with the Halladay family and friends at this time.”