I’ve been a Philadelphia Phillies fan since I was a little kid. I blame my dad for that, haha. My dad grew up in Massapequa, Long Island, and at that time, he said that the house he lived in only got one channel that aired baseball games; and it only had Phillies games. He used to tell me that most of the seasons, the team really wasn’t that good, but there was something he liked about them. He said he always felt like the team gave it their all, and always respected the game and their fans. And just like that, the Phillies had its newest fan…Me.
From the beginning, I fell in love with the team colors, the iconic Liberty Bell and the entire of city of Philadelphia. It is such a special place. So much history to take in. I was always excited to make trips from my home on Long Island down to “The City of Brotherly Love” to catch a ball game with my pops. The Phillies teams that I grew up with were similar to ones my father had cheered on. They weren’t the most competitive, but seemed to give their all for 9 innings. And they did have some exciting players to watch. They had “J-Roll” Jimmy Rollins who went on to win an MVP award. “Pat the Bat” Pat Burrell, and a hot-shot new infielder named Chase Utley. Before you knew it, these three along with some other quality players had the Phillies making moves and winning some ball games. So much in fact, that they shocked the baseball world in 2007 when they caught the New York Mets and won the National League East title. After all these years, my team had arrived.
This was the beginning of my finest run as a Philadelphia Phillies fan. The years 2007 to 2012 were incredible. My “Phils” ruled the NL East. So many exciting games and moments that kept adding up. One of my favorite baseball moments ever was being at the last home game for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in 2008. Jamie Moyer pitched and Tom Gordon closed out the game. Distant names for this generation of fans, but not to me. Those were my guys. I was only 13 years old at the time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
The Phillies went on to win the World Series that season, and I probably wore a Phillies shirt to school everyday of 8th grade. As you can guess, it’s not easy being a Philadelphia Phillies fan in the the New City York area. Everyone else is a Yankees or Mets fans, and they always seemed to want to fight me because I wore my teams colors so proudly. I was heckled quite a bit back then, but I would do my best to laugh it off. Sometimes, I would enjoy the attention and embrace it by blowing kisses at them to get them more riled up. Maybe not the smartest thing to do to a bunch of New Yorkers, but hey, it made it all more fun.
Being a Phillies fan has made me appreciate the good teams when they come around. And as any sports fan knows, the good teams don’t come around that often, and when they do, you need to enjoy every minute of the ride. The same can be said about certain players. There are thousands who play America’s pastime, but only a handful of them make an unforgettable impact on us. One of those special players just happened to play for the team I have loved my entire childhood. His name was Roy, but most of his friends called him “Doc”.
Just like the rest of the baseball world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of the former Major League star, Roy Halladay this past Tuesday. As a Phillies fan, it really hit home. One of my idols, a player who I cheered for and looked up to, was no longer with us. The first thing I did when I got home after hearing the tragic news was go into a box where I keep my old jerseys. There it was, my #34 Roy Halladay Philadelphia Phillies jersey. Those that know me well know that I don’t buy many jerseys. I only have a few of them. And the few that I have are of guys that I have a great deal of pride representing; guys like Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Bryce Harper, Chase Utley and of course, the late Roy Halladay. The other item I grabbed was a copy of the New York Post from the day after Halladay threw his post season no-hitter. Remember that? What a game!
Roy Halladay only spent 4 seasons with my favorite team but instantly became an idol and hero of mine. When my friends and I would play pick-up baseball down at the park, my nick-name would always be “Doc Hils” in honor of my admiration for “Doc Halladay”. Many of my friends reached out to me this week to send their condolences knowing just how much Roy meant to me.
Roy Halladay was the definition of a professional. One of my other favorite players, Chase Utley, who doesn’t say much to the media, put out a statement earlier this week about “Doc”. Chase explained how he arrived at spring training early one day and saw Roy, who dripping in sweat and eating breakfast. Chase asked him if it had rained outside and Roy told him no, that he just got done with his workout before grabbing a bite. That was Roy. An unmatched work ethic respected by his teammates and opponents alike.
I was honored to root for Roy during his final 4 seasons of his career pitching in Philadelphia. During his career, Halladay won 203 games and along with 67 complete games. Thats right, 67 complete games. In an era where we are lucky to see the starting pitcher get through 5 innings, this guy was committed to finishing his job. He was a player who honed his craft day in and day out. Someone who many of his colleagues looked up to. I know I did.
Roy Halladay got his nickname from “Doc” Holliday, the famous wild west gunslinger. The nick name seemed appropriate as Halladay would stand on the rubber, take in his sign, draw his weapon (his arm) and fire strikes across the plate. Some could say that “Doc” was appropriate because of his precision of his pitches, similar to that of doctors diagnosis. Accurate and to the point. That was my idol “Doc” Halladay. Whether fans were thinking of the gunslinger or the doctor, Halladay was admired by all. When he took the mound, all eyes were on Roy. A current Major League player was quoted this week saying “Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player”.
Roy Halladay had that blue collar mentality of lets go to work and not leave until the job was done. He was a rarity. An exception to the rule. A player who was loved and respected by fans and foes. A player who may one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. But beyond his talents on the mound, Roy was a great man, husband and father. He was the kind of man that fans like me could look up to.
I never did get a chance to meet Roy. I sure would’ve loved that. I’ve asked myself a few times what exactly I might have said to him if I did get that chance. Would I say something about his no-hitter in the playoffs? Would I tell him that I proudly wear his jersey? Or maybe that he was one of my heroes? I’m not really sure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, if I did get that chance, I would only have one thing to say…
“Thanks Doc…for everything!”
– Walt Hilsenbeck
Digmi Contributing Author
More about the author: Walt Hilsenbeck is die hard baseball fan who attends more than 75 professional games each season. Walt is the founder of HilsFilms, a YouTube channel that features candid player interviews and game content. Walt’s material has been featured on media platforms such as MLB Network and Univision.