Halladay dealing with loss of his mentor
Ace pitcher credits sports psychologist for development
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roy Halladay still opens up and flips through "The Mental ABC's of Pitching" before every start.
Halladay said he carries the book everywhere and that famed sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, who wrote the book, is the most influential person in his career. Dorfman died Monday at age 75.
"I'm certain I would have never had the success I've had if it weren't for the time I've spent with him and the things I've learned from him," said Halladay, who plans to attend the funeral services. "He really helped me turn the corner, professionally, personally. He made all the difference."
Halladay's career had been in a spiral in 2000. He went 4-7 with a 10.64 ERA in 19 appearances (13 starts) with the Blue Jays. He had been demoted to the Minor Leagues. He had plenty of questions about himself as a pitcher, and his ability to be successful in the big leagues. But then, his wife stumbled upon Dorfman's book in a bookstore. She purchased it and brought it home.
Halladay liked what he read. He learned Dorfman was working with the A's, so he contacted Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who had worked with the A's. Ricciardi put Halladay in contact with Dorfman and they had been in contact since.
"He made you be accountable to yourself and accountable to him," Halladay said. "There were times last season when I'd call and we'd be talking about something and he'd get to the bottom of it pretty quick. He really seemed to know what was going on, whether he was talking to you or not, just by watching, just by seeing what was going on. He had a very good idea of what was really going through your head."
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Halladay communicated with Dorfman roughly six or seven times a month every season. He spoke with him a couple weeks following the 2010 season. They last e-mailed before Dorfman went into the hospital just after New Year's.
Halladay said he spoke with Dorfman before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, when he pitched with a strained groin. Halladay needed to win that game to keep the season alive. He did.
"He's always preached paying attention to the job at hand, not focusing on other stuff going on, whether it's the umpires or the team you're facing or how your body feels," Halladay said. "It's always attention to the task at hand and simplifying things. He was very good at that. I talked to him before that game. The best part about him was you'd go in and tell him that I'm pitching this game and if we lose we're out and this and that, and he gives you a perspective of what it actually means and the best way to go about it. He's just a tremendous help that way. He made things easy."
Halladay wanted to spread Dorfman's word. He handed out roughly 20 copies of his book during a minicamp for some Phils pitchers in January. Philadelphia pitching coach Rich Dubee couldn't have been happier Halladay did.
"I was thrilled," he said. "I've been telling them for years, 'I really think you should give one to every Minor League pitcher.' That's how important I thought it was."
Halladay is not the only Philadelphia player to use Dorfman. Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez and Kyle Kendrick have used him.
Jamie Moyer touted him while he pitched for the Phillies.
"I remember [Moyer] carrying it with him everywhere," Lidge said. "I think pretty much all the pitchers on our team were at least flipping through it. We're all picking up the book and flipping through it. A lot of the stuff is pretty simple, pretty straightforward. But he's able to relate to players really well. When you make a book like that that just gets handed around the clubhouse, you can't help but pick some stuff up."
But now that Dorfman has passed, who does Halladay turn to?
"I still have a lot of his stuff," Halladay said. "I've saved, I think, every e-mail I've gotten from him over the last five or so years. There's a lot of information there. But I think, obviously, you're going to miss talking to him. I'm going to stick to the stuff he left behind, I think, as much as possible."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.