Interview with Brandy Halladay
A meeting had been arranged via email for Wednesday afternoon. An always welcoming Brandy Halladay stuck her head around the corner in the press box at Citizens Bank Park, spotted a familiar face from Toronto and smiled. This first year with the Phillies has not been an easy transition for Roy's better half as she tries to find her own way and establish herself in her second community of baseball wives. She admitted to still having no idea where she was going most of the time in the unfamiliar surroundings after 12 years of comfort in Toronto. We found a quiet conference room and began a 45-minute conversation about all aspects of life in Toronto and Roy's departure from the Jays.
Richard Griffin: Things changed so quickly in December and the next thing that Toronto fans knew is that you guys were in Philly talking to a Philly audience and the reaction that I got from readers and from fans was that 'It didn't take them long to forget about us.' I just wanted to...
Brandy Halladay: Really? It didn't take us long to forget. Are you kidding me? That shocks me. That absolutely shocks me.
RG: -Everything was suddenly moving ahead rather than reflective. One day you're in Toronto. Next day you're in Philly. Nobody there was asking you your favourite memories of Toronto and what things about the city are going to stay with you and this and that. It was because it happens so fast.
BH:-I guess it would seem like that to other people. For us it wasn't fast at all. This wasn't something that was overnight. And it wasn't 'So long, see you later.' When J.P. was still with them, he had come to us and said what about this extension, blah, blah, blah. He was under a lot of pressure to get us to sign this extension. And they offered us money. They offered us a lot of money. Like we said, it's not about the money, it's about putting ourselves in the position to attain the goals we set for ourselves. And we said at this time we can't sign that extension because we don't know where the team's going. This is a year before J.P. was even fired...well, however that went down. So at that point we had been asked for a list of teams. And that was six months before the trade deadline last year. That was before the season started, the middle of December the year before. So for us it had been drawn out. When spring training came we said, 'Look of you're going to do this do it now. Don't do it during the year because it's a media frenzy for the team, it's a media frenzy for us. Either get it done or let us do our job. They didn't get it done so we said, okay, well we're here for the year. We never went to them and said we want a trade. They came to us every time. Then the all-star break came.We were furious. It was really difficult because we said we don't want this to be a media circus. Our goal is to still win for this team. Our goal is to still play. If you guys can get this done quietly, get it done. That's fine. But, again, they came to us, we didn't go to them and say we wanted to get traded, we wanted out of here. They came to us and said we need to give therm a list of teams to get this done. They told us we're not going to win, we're going to rebuild. We're going to drop it down. They said if you go everyone's going to follow and this is our plan and we said okay, you let us know. It was so drawn out, so long. It was a year and a half for us.
RG: Roy didn't seem to have a very good time at the All-Star Game.
BH: It was horrible. It was horrible. That was the worst month of my life. No, that's not true. There have been far worse. But that was a really stressful month and it affected him personally, it affected him professionally, everything. But I'm still stunned that people would think...it blows my mind that you said that and it makes me really sad. It really makes me sad that people would think that, but I understand why.
RG: Can you not see that one day in December Doc was theirs and the next day he's at a press conference in Philadelphia and not dissing in any way what had happened before, but everything was looking ahead and (Jays fans) wanted to hear what he missed about Toronto. From '95 to 2009 he was a member of the organization.
BH: For us, that first trade deadline, there were so many times that we did reminisce, that whole month because we thought for sure this was getting done. We thought we were gone and that was hard for us. We were thinking this might be my last food drive. This might be the last this or the last that. It was really hard. When I left before that All-Star Game, knowing I wasn't coming back. It was really hard. At that time people knew that the Blue Jays were shopping us around. J.P. had told us that they were going to do it quietly.
RG: It was far from quiet.
BH: Yeah and that's one of the things I'm really proud of is we kept the promises that we made. We were told not to say anything. We didn't say anything. I don't know where the information came from, but my family didn't even know that we were in Philly. They asked us not to say anything. But they were the ones at the All-Star break. Somebody out there had that information and J.P. did come out very publicly and say, 'If I get what I want, we'll trade him.' So I guess at that point people should probably have seen, 'You know what, this is kind of coming to an end.' So for me, it didn't seem like it was quick. To me it seemed like it was so drawn out. And painful. It didn't need to be handled so slowly. It was slow for me.
RG: In July it seemed to me to be a repetition of the way that Carlos Delgado was handled and Kelvim Escobar and a few guys where the Jays said 'We have an offer out there. If said player gives us a home team discount we'd love to have him back.' But to me it was unfair with Carlos, it was unfair with Roy.
BH: I undersand that.
RG: That wasn't part of what you guys had bargained for in terms of the whole thing being kept under the radar. It was out there to fans that Roy can come back if he loves you, if he loves Toronto.
BH: Which is crap. That's not how it was. And from a business standpoint I can understand why they would want it to spin that way. Of course they would want it to spin that way because somebody's head was going to roll because they just lost Roy. They didn't want to lose him either. We didn't want to go. It's not that we were so fed up in Toronto we just had to get out of there. But we just wanted a chance to win and they told us they weren't going to be able to provide us that chance. It's a rock and a hard place. Do you love where you are? Absolutely. But sometimes the time comes that you have to move forward.
RG: But this organization, being in Canada and being up against it when it comes to free agents has always prided itself, going back even before '95 when Roy was drafted, Gord Ash and before that, they always prided themselves on being inclusive with families and having people feel a part of what they are. And so they have to balance that against the business aspect that you just spoke about. Usually they've handled it on the side of the families, on the side of being sensitive to the needs of their players because that's the sort of attitude that carries over by word of mouth from player to players. But it seemed like it was strictly a business thing this time.
BH: It can't ever just be a business when you're with a team for 15 years. It's not just business. It's personal too. And that's why I think it was difficult for everybody. It wasn't as easy and cold as I think you might think, the impression that you're giving me. It wasn't that way at all.
RG: I'm talking about from their side.
BH: From the player's side?
RG: No, from the Blue Jays side, their attitude changed from one of being inclusive to their players to 'this is a business. You either take this and show us you want to stay or we'll trade you.'
BH: Yeah. I don't know. I guess I didn't really feel like that. But I also felt like...let me try and say this right. I felt like we had made sacrifices to stay. Like I said before, we've always kept our promises to the team. Yes we'll take less this year so you can go out and get somebody else. Or we'll hold back this much or we'll do this or that. We'll sign for the rebuild – again.
RG: Which was the last extension.
BH: And the extension before. We've signed on twice for rebuilding and they've called him and they've asked for his input and I've heard it so many times. We're going to build the team around you. What do you think of this guy? What do you think of that guy? We couldn't rebuild again. You only have so many years and we couldn't go through that again. When we signed this contract we were told that the last couple of years were the years they were going to make the push. Well a year into our contract they were, 'Oh, now we're going to rebuild again' and we were you know, 'What about the promise you made to us?' But still Roy is very adamant and I love this about my husband. He made a commitment to the team. There were no ifs in our contracts. There were no stars and asterisks. He committed to play for that team for four years and that's what he would have done. But, again, they came to us and I think they realized they weren't going to be able to do what they thought they were going to do and I have to give the Blue Jays some credit. There's more to what goes on in those offices than people see. They came to us and I'm grateful for that because they did take into...they thought about what we needed too. So to me I really do feel that it was personal. They took into consideration what we needed. They could have kept us there. We could be there right now if they wanted us to be. The didn't have to provide us the opportunity to be with another team. So I see it both ways. I do feel that it was kind, but at the same time it's still a business. They had to get the most that they could. They would have been foolish not to.
RG: Was there a noticeable change when Alex took over in terms of getting it behind closed doors again and just having it private?
BH: I don't think that there was a change. I think J.P. took a lot of heat for things he shouldn't have taken heat for. That's just my opinion from behind the doors. I think his hands were tied a lot. I think he did the best for us that he could. There wasn't a noticeable change in the way things were handled. It was just another change. You look back. How many GMs have we gone through. We've gone through owners. We've gone through so many managers. I've seen that office change over and over and over. So it was just kind of here we go again. We're starting over again. Alex is smart. He's a smart guy. My fear was that this was the only shot we had to do this right and I was scared that with him being new that maybe it wasn't going to get done or maybe the right deals weren't going to come forward because he was new. Just that fear of starting over again.
RG: Was there a fear that because there was only a certain number of places that Roy would go that they Jays would say well that's not enough and it wouldn't get done. I mean there were just a few places that it ended up he would go to.
BH: I think, and again this is the business of baseball. People forget that it's a business. For us, we had to make the smartest decision for us. We didn't just want to go to a team, uproot our family and have to start over again. We wanted to make a decision that was going to benefit us in the long run. It was a smart decision for everybody. We weren't going to screw the Jays over, make them get nothing just to let us go. We weren't going to fight, pitch a fit, cross our arms and refuse to cooperate. I'd like to think that they thought the same way. I'd like to think that both sides really tried to find a compromise to make it work. Coming here was part of that good faith effort. That was facilitated through the Phillies and the Jays working together to get it done. That's all behind the scenes stuff that people don't get to know. There was a lot of friendship and there was a lot of heartfelt tugs there. It wasn't a cold, here-today-gone-tomorrow thing for us.
RG: It was a continuance of the relationship that you had had all along.
BH: Absolutely. I think on all sides, the Jays, the Phillies and on our behalf. Even people who weren't with the organization anymore called. Old GMs, people from the offices and scouts here and there that all kind if tried to facilitate that. I feel really privileged, honoured that there were so many people who cared so much to put us in a place to succeed and it absolutely was a joint effort on every side. It's such a big thing. It was a big move. I think for Toronto, for the organization...I talked to so many people in that organization when we left from the babysitters to Joe in the elevator to the guys down in the parking garages, the people up in the offices. It was like a mourning. That killed me that feeling, but at the same time it was 'We wish you the best.' And I feel like that's how the front office handled it too. They were sad to see him go. It's hard to let something like that go when you don't know what you have behind it. They were giving up a lot if publicity, you know. His big face was all over the bises and everything else. It's like when Carlos left...
RG: The face of the franchise. Carlos was the face of the franchise and by last year Roy was definitely the face of the franchise and that's a hard thing to give up.
BH: I remember Carlos leaving and I remember going, 'Oh crap. Now what? Carlos is gone. He's the whole team.' That's how I feel and that's hard on their end to say we've got to do the right thing and let him go. I commend them for doing the right thing.
RG: Roy said that, I think in the first press conference here, that when he was watching the World Series at home, the Yankees and Phillies, that he was really thinking about it.
BH: It was hard.
RG: Was it hard sitting with him?
BH: I didn't watch. I didn't watch because, I know it sounds awful, as much as I love Toronto and I still – I'm looking at the website every day to see how the Food Drive went, the numbers you know. I'm so emotionally vested in that city so it's hard to leave the city but at the same time you want to compete so bad. You want to be part of that. I want that for him so bad. Not that this is guaranteeing us a ring, but to know that you have the opportunity to win is so big. Just knowing you have the opportunity is a big deal, where for the last couple of years we've been told we're not even going to try. We're going to rebuild.
RG: Except if it's a Roy contract year.
BH: Seriously, then we're trying, right. No, (laughs). It was hard. But we really thought in July that we were getting traded. I had brought all of our clothes home. We really thought we were gone. And from both sides it was a dones deal. But I don't blame the Phillies. They couldn't be left empty-handed. They had to have somebody and Cliff came in and did his job. He was great for them. It was a great option for them. But it left us going, 'Uhh, what?' So now what? Now that we've gone through this whole month of hell and nothing came of it. It was depressing. It's hard to get that close and be dropped right back on your butt.
RG: The thing about doing it in mid-season, the problem that I see is the Jays wanted the equivalent of value on a Roy Halladay signed for three years or whatever and they weren't going to get it in July.
BH: We said specifically we did not want to do it during the season. We said that before it started.
RG: Then all of a sudden in July it came up again.
BH: It came up again and that was frustrating. That was hard.
RG: It was at Yankee Stadium when J.P. approached Roy and said we're going to try?
BH: Yeah, in the lobby. We were in the hotel.
RG: Then all of a sudden it came out in the media.
BH: You know we went upstairs and we said 'We won;'t say a word.' That's when we were asked. And the next morning...They came down to Tampa the winter before to have a meeting. We were told this is quiet, nobody says anything. Well, the next day he's got a quote in the paper.
RG: That was quick.
BH: What are you doing? What happened to the we're going to keep this quiet deal. That was hard. But that was the frustrating part for us that it was handled during the season. I don't think that was fair to us or the rest of the team.
RG: In that clubhouse, it didn't seem fair to the whole team because all of us were looking for Roy to say something. He wasn't going to say something.
BH: What can he say?
RG: And everybody else is looking across the clubhouse going 'What the hell, this is it.'
BH: Yeah, this is it. It's not fair to anybody and we didn't want it to happen that way. But at the same time what are your options, you know. We don't run the show. We just try to comply with it.
RG: Out of your 10 years in Toronto...
BH: Twelve. We lost a year of service time over two years.
RG: Right, right. What are three solid memories of Toronto that you'll never forget.
BH: Only three.
RG: Five. I was going to ask five, but I didn't want...
BH: Only five.
RG: Five that shaped you as a woman, shaped you as a human being, something that you'll never forget about your time there.
BH: I'm going to cry. I don't even have a Kleenex. Do, I have some in my purse. I'm still so shocked that people might think we just moved on and forgot about them. That kills me. It kills me. Okay, so five. First of all my son was born there. How do you forget something like that. My son was born there. Toronto has been as much or more of a home to me than any place I've ever lived. I've never lived in any place as long as I've lived in Toronto, ever, my entire life. So, that's huge for me. Just knowing how to get off the plane and come home. It was a home. We have a home there. I love the Food Drive. I don't know why. I love that Food Drive so much. I love it because I think it's so simple to take something from someone that wants to give and give it to someone that needs it. It's the easiest thing in the world to do and I loved that we've always had this platform to do it. Somebody wants to bring me stuff so that I can give it to someone else. It's amazing.
RG: Do you remember your first Food Drive and whether you thought as a young woman that it was a difficult thing to do and then you changed your mind?
BH: There was not one second that I thought this was a difficult thing to do. What's hard about that? There was nothing, not one hard thing about it. I remember my first Food Drive, Roy was in Triple-A and I was still in Toronto. I don't know. I love it. The Food Drive is still special to me because I believed we could make a difference.
RG: Is that where the wives form their strongest bond with each other in terms of a common cause as in it doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a veteran?
BH: I don't know if I would say that. That team in the later years didn't really have that much of a sense of seniority. Everybody just kind of 'was'. I guess I've always had that feeling anyway. We're all in the same boat. When I was new, I'd look at these women and say, 'Wow, 12 years. I can't imagine.' But pretty soon you're there at 10 years and you're looking at the new wives and you're saying, 'Gosh, you're so new.' At some point we've all been in that same place, been in that same position. There's always somebody that's been there longer, that did it first, that makes more money, that has a bigger ring, that drives a fancier car. There's always somebody a step ahead of you and there's always going to be somebody behind you. So why worry about status. It just didn't matter. It's just me. I don't care who you are as long as you're treating people the right way. I don't care if you've got two days or 20 years. Be a decent person. And the longer I was there, the more I saw that kind of relaxation. Everybody just kind of 'was'. It was nice. It was easy.
Gosh. The things I love in Toronto. Tom (Cheek) and Jerry (Howarth). I love Tom and Jerry. I used to go up there all the time and knock on the door: 'Can I please come in and talk in the fourth inning?' They'd always let me come in and talk. 'What are you working on today?' Gosh I love those men. Tom and Jerry. They're amazing. I'd never cared about hockey until I lived in Toronto. I don't think anyone can live there and not care about hockey. The one thing I do regret is I never went to the Hockey Hall-of-Fame. I never went. I wish I would have done that. I will at some point, but I wish I had one it when I was there.
RG: Maybe when Braden is a little bigger and he can appreciate it.
BH: There's so many things. I loved Doc's Box. I love it. I actually have a family coming down on Saturday, Isaac McFadden, who I met through Doc's Box. He and his family had come one time from the hospital and there was just something about this little kid that kind of grabs you by the heart. This kid. I don't know what it was. His family was fantastic and he has a little brother. I just loved the drive and the fight of this family. They were in there and they werte gung-ho about fixing his disease (MPS VI). They're coming down on Saturday, so I've been in touch with them. Isaac and I are going to have a day. I'm really excited. They're an amazing family and I'm so excited to see them.
RG: Its a good thing the series this weekend was moved here. It's going to be a zoo downtown.
BG: It's too bad for the fans. One of my biggest fears was going back. You want to go back so bad, but you wonder what are they thinking? You really never know. I hoped that we'd be welcomed. I hoped that. I know we had no hard feelings in leaving.
RG: He would have got a standing ovation.
BH: I hope. Not that I have to have that, but I just hoped that the people there know.
RG: They'll save it for next year when they decide that they have to put the three games there.
BH: Yeah, exactly. I always hope that people do know how much we loved that city. Our goal, our hope was that we would never have to move. There really wasn't an opportunity to express that. Nobody talked to us after that. When you do come to Philly -- and this is where we're kind of stuck too – you can't come to a new city, especially a city like this and say, 'Oh, we love Toronto and Toronto was better because of this,' or 'We miss that' or 'We wanted this' because they would kill us. You have to be positive moving forward. You can't dwell on the past but you can be appreciative of it. You can't mumble and look back. You can only look back with gratitude and affection and move on the best you can. And so much of what I had in Toronto I'm bringing here.
Already just with Doc's Box, that was my big thing. Can I bring it here? The Food Drive. The girls here are ridiculous. They have cause after cause after cause. I have never seen fundraisers like I've seen in this stadium. These girls are insane, so I'm kind of left with my hands up in the air saying, 'What can I do? How can I contribute?' These girls have it covered, so I'm trying to find a niche. I don't necessarily have a niche yet. I have to figure out how to get to the stadium first, before I find a niche. That was not easy just to learn your way around. Just to get in the stadium. Where the heck do I go? To get to my seats from here? No clue. Which is very foreign for me.
We're trying to settle and we're trying to move forward. But for us moving forward doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean that we are glad that it's over. We're just grateful that we have that. It's just me that's ready. It's made us a better family. Being in Toronto definitely gave us the opportunity to be a real family, not to get caught up in the craziness that some of these cities have.
We realized that when we came here how easy we had it. We really did in terms of living a normal life. The people in Toronto are so respectful and they're so non-invasive and they're so reserved. They treated us like normal people, but normal people with an exceptional job. That's how they treated us. They didn't treat us as these sub-human objects that they can maul in the streets.
We did experience that going into other cities and traveling with the Blue Jays before. Before, you go into other cities and it's lie, 'Holy crap.' Every time you get back to town you go 'Ahhh, Toronto.' It's easy. Downtown I can walk down the streets and go 'Yeah we can eat at this place or we can eat at that place' and you're safe. I love that city. I love that city.
RG: How about a special message for the fans in the stadium and the staff that worked there and yu met and dealt with all the time. The fans there had a genuine affection for your husband.
BH: There are fans I know by name. You're going to make me cry again. Gosh, I didn't expect to cry. Thank you isn't enough. I hope we play there next year because I think we all really need that opportunity. We didn't really get to say goodbye to them and that was hard. That was hard. It's still hard, obviously, and I'm not a big crybaby. I know people think I am because I've been crying for the last year and a half but that's because I was sad. It's an end of really everything we had together. When we got married, when we started dating we were Blue Jays. My heart is so full because of that city. I don't know how to say it. We always have been Blue Jays and we always will be. You don't stop, you know. Braden keeps bragging about being born there. Oh my gosh, the first member of our family born in a foreign country. He's so proud of that. think one of the things I really miss that you wouldn't think about. I miss the Canadian anthem. I love that anthem so much and my kids didn't understand why they only had one anthem. What's going on. We don't hear that any more and it's strange to not hear it. I miss that. Silly little things.
RG: Friday. O Canada.
BH: I know. I can't wait. And I'm going to sing it so loud people are going to say what;s wrong with that girl. It's those types of things. That city really gave us the opportunity. It did more than that. It provided a life for my family that I never knew. We have financial stability. A strong marriage. My children will go to college. My children are respectful. They're a part of the community. They've met children with cancer. They have lived in a safe neighbourhood. They've lived in a metropolitan city. There's so much that we owe to Toronto that I cannot express.
RG: You've done a good job.