Blue Jays: Roy Halladay and his use of sports psychology

Pitcher Roy Halladay is all smiles after finishing wind sprints during a Toronto Blue Jays spring training practice at the Cecil P. Englebert Complex in Dunedin, Florida on February 20, 2007. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/WireImage)
Pitcher Roy Halladay is all smiles after finishing wind sprints during a Toronto Blue Jays spring training practice at the Cecil P. Englebert Complex in Dunedin, Florida on February 20, 2007. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/WireImage) /
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With sports psychology and mental health a hot topic in today’s day and age, one former Blue Jays athlete credits the insight of a professional for helping resurrect his career during his darkest times.

After spending his full season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999, Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay returned to the team in 2000 and turned in the worst year in his career.

He would throw to a 10.64 ERA with a 4-7 record, pitching in only 67.2 innings giving up 80 earned runs while striking out only 44 batters.

Doc was struggling to get batters out and was giving up hits and walks both as a starter and as a reliever.

To begin the 2001 season, Halladay was demoted to Class A in Dunedin in order to work on his pitching mechanics and his delivery to the plate. You could even say that it was used as a bit of a motivation boost to regain some confidence after a rough previous season.

It was down in Dunedin where pitching coach Mel Queen tampered with his delivery and worked on his pitches to the plate.

Instead of trying to overpower hitters with just a straight fastball with speed, Halladay learned to sink and cut the ball, in order to deceive the major league hitters.

While down in the MiLB, Roy Halladay also decided to make a call to renowned sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

Dorfman was an educator and mental health advocate, where he tried to enhance the performance of athletes by tapping into their mental well being.

He would look into what the athlete was doing away from the field and would try to relieve the anxiety of off-field pressures when the player stepped onto the mound or in the batter’s box.

It was his belief that the off-field distractions were a major cause of a player’s struggles while he was on the field.

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Dorfman would also look into developing a routine for the players that focused on a pitch-by-pitch or bat-by-bat basis. It was through this philosophy that Harvey believed a player could maximize their on-field performance through these routines.

It was in 2001 that Halladay and Dorfman began this relationship; a connection that the late pitcher says helped resurrect his career after his early struggles.

In February 2011, Harvey Dorfman passed away, leaving a legacy behind in the sports psychology world that touched teams and players across the league.

For Roy Halladay, whenever he was struggling mentally and wasn’t able to contact Dorfman after his passing, he would refer to old email exchanges between the pair; something Halladay kept close by over his career.

With mental health an important issue in today’s society, it is a great reminder to see icons and players that fans look up too over the years use these services to make themselves healthier but also perform better.

Doc was revered for his hard work, both physically and mentally, and with his recent induction into the Hall of Fame this weekend, there is no better advocate for the city of Toronto, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the sport of baseball.

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Even though he is no longer with us, Roy Halladay was a great family man, teammate, and charity advocate that is deserving of his place in Cooperstown.

RIP Doc.

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