Roy Halladay died Tuesday afternoon in a plane crash.
He was 40.
It leans so hard against your chest.
For Brandy, his wife. For Braden and Ryan, his teenaged sons, young men like their dad was once. Young ballplayers, like he was once.
For the light and the darkness ahead for them, for the days when he would have told them again he loved them, he was proud of them, he was there for them, and always would be.
For the days when he would have most wanted to be there, when they would’ve most wanted him to be there, those sad and happy days that Roy’s smile and laugh and wisdom would’ve saved or bettered.
That he could throw a baseball, that just made him other people’s hero too.
Roy’s private plane went down in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from St. Petersburg, Florida. They say he was alone.
The game, then, did not stoop to mourn one of his generation’s finest pitchers, though he was. Rather, it rose to honor the teammate, the friend, the husband, the father, the son, the man it knew to be so much more than a collection of innings or what came of them. He left the game four years ago in a ceremony Brandy captured from the front row on her iPad. He left the game for a life of raising his boys every day. Every single day. He left, maybe, a little sooner than he had to, with an ailing back that maybe could have been fixed, with a farewell to the notion that a life without the game could be put off, that that life would always be around tomorrow, that he’d get to it when he got to it.
“I,” he’d said with a smile that day, “had to stop my wife from cracking the Champagne this morning.”
An old man in the game is often still a new husband, a young father, freed from the unrelenting schedule. Those years would finance the rest of their lives, but only when they got to them. And so, soon enough, Roy Halladay coached his sons. He tended to his wife, and she to him. He flew. He went after all the new todays, that seems clear, however they came, sunny or cloudy, still or windblown. And so everything about Roy Halladay since he retired came with a smile. The boys were celebrating something, and he was always in the picture. The world fell away beneath him in a cockpit video, the hum of an engine near, and his breath was always close. The four of them leaned into a photo, and that was maybe what they’d planned all along, and now it was their boys’ turn, and you’d never know who was going to enjoy it more. Call it a tie.
So, yeah, he could throw a baseball. And that mattered some days. It mattered to him, because nobody works that hard at something that doesn’t. It mattered to the other 24. It mattered to the young men who wished to grow up to be like him, so kind and generous and an absolute beast on the mound. It mattered to Ryan and Braden, who’d scraped around in some big-league clubhouses, and who’d shared that name across their backs, the name of baseball royalty, and do still. It mattered because we admire a man who is ruthless for three hours, for 16 years, and then is who we’d like to be for the rest. We cannot, most of us, be perfect with a baseball in our hands. What’s left, however, is attainable. And, over the hours of a terribly sad Tuesday, when those who really knew Roy Halladay said their goodbyes, the baseball world sat in a corner and wept.
Said Tony Clark, MLBPA executive director: “Our hearts are broken. Roy Halladay was not just one of the greatest competitors, but was also among the best men in our generation of players.”
Said Brad Lidge: “Roy was the guy I looked up to in little league, in high school, in the bigs. So lucky to have been his teammate. Incredible husband, incredible dad …”
And so it went, a stream of easy deference, of pained farewells, reaching to hold Brandy and Ryan and Braden.
It leans so hard against your chest. For them.
More Roy Halladay coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Baseball world reacts to Halladay’s tragic death
• Sports world rocked again by plane crash death
• 5 moments that made us love Roy Halladay
• Halladay’s plane, the ICON A5, was a ‘Jet Ski with wings’