The Blue Jays family joined the entire baseball community on Tuesday afternoon to mourn the loss of Roy Halladay and pay tribute to the man who impacted so many lives across Canada and the United States.
Former teammates Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells, A.J. Burnett, Jose Bautista, John McDonald, Scott Rolen, Jason Frasor and Frank Thomas were just some of those who attended Halladay's memorial service at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. Former pitching coaches Bruce Walton, Brad Arnsberg and Dane Johnson were there, too, along with representatives from Toronto's current front office.
Blue Jays trainer George Poulis and right-hander Chris Carpenter were among those who took the stage to share their stories of the beloved man who tragically passed away in a plane crash on Nov. 7. J.P. Ricciardi, who was the GM for eight of Halladay's 12 years in Toronto, spoke as well and shared an open letter he wrote to the father of Braden and Ryan, husband of Brandy.
"I can write forever about your baseball exploits, about your amazing work ethic, and your fierce competitiveness, your meticulous preparedness," an emotional Ricciardi said from the podium. "How in the eight years we spent together, I had a front-row seat to watch the best pitcher in baseball.
"I was treated to your excellence every fifth day and you never let any of us down. But you were so much more than a baseball player to me. A loving husband and dad. You were one of the classiest players I've ever had the pleasure to be around. You were one of the most humble stars I've ever seen."
Carpenter shared similar stories and spoke about how the two became close friends when they played together at Triple-A Syracuse in 1997. The pair quickly hit it off and formed a tight bond over the years that extended well beyond their time together in a Blue Jays uniform. Whether it was long talks about life in baseball or their frequent fishing trips together, Carpenter got to see a different side of the deeply private man.
In the somber setting, Carpenter provided some of the more uplifting moments of the ceremony with stories about swimming together in the muddy waters of Argentina and full-body workouts in the farmland of Brazil. Stories that showed Halladay's humor, love for adventure and even some of his pet peeves.
"Harry Leroy Halladay the third. Man, he's mad at me right now for calling him that. He hates when I call him that," a visibly upset Carpenter said with his eyes covered by a pair of dark sunglasses.
"You will always be able to Google 'Roy Halladay' and see his stats, all of his accomplishments and all of his awards. But what you can't Google is his heart, his grace, his kindness, his caring for others, his generosity or his love for his family. He wasn't put on earth to be a good baseball player, that's just what he did for a job. He was put here to love people, encourage people and lead people to be better, and that's what he did."
Poulis, who has been Toronto's head athletic trainer since 2003, might know better than anybody what Halladay put his body through to become one of the all-time greats, the lengths Halladay went to get better each and every day as a professional baseball player. Few people have ever prepared quite the way Halladay did, and that will be just one small part of how he is remembered by all.
"I look around at Roy's family, his fans, his teammates and staff and I see sadness in their eyes that they will never see Roy again," Poulis said. "But the memories of his life and the passion of how he lived, and how many lives he touched, will live on forever. This will help us forever. I thank God for Roy Halladay and for his family being part of my life."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.