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One night last month, after blowing through the Braves for three innings in Orlando, Halladay changed out of his spikes and into running shoes and headed for a back field at Atlanta's training complex. Many veteran pitchers, given a road spring training assignment at night, might have been in a car by the fifth inning. But there was Halladay, just beginning a two-hour poststart workout.
Alone, lit by the ambient lights from the main stadium, did he run. It raised a simple question: What makes Roy run?
When Roy Halladay Jr., a commercial pilot, and his wife were looking to buy a home in the Denver suburb of Arvada, they had one special requirement: a basement at least 60 feet, six inches long. They found one, bought the place and built a batting cage in the basement complete with a pitching mound for their son, Roy III, a middle child with two sisters. Roy would throw off his mound and whistle fastballs through a tire and into a mattress propped up behind his steel-belted strike zone.
When Roy was nine his father took him to listen to a local pitching guru and part-time major league scout by the name of Bus Campbell. After the clinic Roy's dad introduced himself and his son. "This is my son, Roy," the elder Halladay said. "He really wants to learn how to be a major league pitcher someday."
"Well, that's good," Campbell said. "Work hard, be careful you don't throw curveballs so young and call me later on when things get going."
At 13, Roy got his hands on a copy of Nolan Ryan's Pitcher's Bible, and he began following the weight training program outlined in the book. If there was one word to describe the boy it was persistent. "He was very similar to what he is now," his father says. "He didn't lose his temper much, and he just went about his business. He reminds me of a golden retriever. Just a pleasant demeanor, get down to business, and when you're through with that it's on to the next thing."
Says Roy III, "My dad played high school baseball. But the biggest thing I got from him was his approach to life. We were always going to do something productive, always go the extra mile. The extra things that were done, that's what separates people."
When he was a high school freshman, Roy was ready for Campbell, who years earlier had helped develop a Colorado flamethrower named Rich Gossage. The old man loved working with young pitchers and never took a dime for the countless hours he gave them. "I'd go see him once or twice a week," Roy said. "He almost became part of our family. It was just a special relationship."
Say his father, "Roy would call him his second grandfather."
By Halladay's senior year of high school, in 1995, he was as perfect a pitching prospect as you could find: a tall power pitcher who was athletic (a junior college offered Roy, a 6'6" center, a partial basketball scholarship) and threw straight over the top, a symphony of long levers. There is an adage among scouts that the shape of a player's butt helps project what the prospect will become. Kids with flat butts generally don't fill out much. Kids with a curved butt will add strength to their frame—what the scouts call good weight. "Roy looked like he could easily carry another 15 to 20 pounds," says Mike Arbuckle, who ran the draft for the Phillies then and now is a senior adviser to the general manager in Kansas City. "That kind of frame with good arm speed, those are two rare elements."