Toronto’s first-ever fully-accessible baseball field was unveiled to a crowd of supporters on Wednesday morning. The city’s newest baseball diamond at Highview Park in Scarborough is called Roy Halladay field, named after the popular Blue Jays pitcher, who died in November 2017.
“This has been such a long time coming and to be able to see it in person and seeing it be used in real-time is amazing. It’s a dream Roy and I had,” said Brandy Halladay, wife of the former Blue Jays legend.
The baseball diamond is unlike any other in the city of Toronto, featuring vulcanized rubber for traction, and wider dugouts for wheelchair accessibility. The field will be used by kids as part of the Challenger Baseball league, which was created for children living with cognitive and/or physical disabilities. The Jays Care Foundation will provide adaptive baseball programming at Highview Park for a five-year term.
According to Brandy, it was important to Roy that the game of baseball is accessible to everyone. She added that while they no longer live in Toronto, it was important for them to give back to the city that made them feel so welcomed. Roy’s son, Braden, threw the first pitch to officially mark the opening of the baseball diamond before a game ensued.
“You’re stuck with us, like it or not; we’re very invested in this city and the people. To be able to continue his legacy and champion the causes that were really important to him, that’s very special to me,” she said.
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The Blue Jays said they’re happy that the Halladay name will be immortalized in Toronto for years to come.
“The Halladay family is an incredible part of the Blue Jays family. And Roy, when he was here for 12 years, did so much in the community. A lot of it was behind the scenes,” said Robert Witchel, executive director of Jays Care Foundation.
“We were so pleased that we were able to partner with the city and bring this together and make it happen.”
Roy’s legacy on the field is nothing to scoff at. The man often called ‘Doc’ is known as arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays history for his 12 seasons, in which he won the CY Young award given to the best pitcher in the league, while also racking up multiple all-star appearances. Halladay was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
The Halladay family’s charitable giving also stands out. In 2003, Roy and Brandy began hosting kids in “Doc’s Box,” extending the invitation for families from SickKids to watch live Blue Jays games.
“Baseball is not who he was, that’s just what he did. … He didn’t want to just be known as a baseball player, he was still a dad, a husband, a son, an uncle, a friend and a champion for 400 other things. So every one of those were just as important as his accomplishments on the field,” she said.
In speaking about Roy’s charitable side and desire to give back, Brandy mentioned that the ‘Doc’ would speak about his goals not just as a professional athlete, but what he hoped to accomplish off the field. Brandy continues to oversee the Halladay Family Foundation, and said that is the most significant legacy of Roy, not necessarily his baseball accolades.
“He knew personally, even before he made it into the big leagues we were already talking about foundations and charities and things that we wanted to do to leave the world a better place, to leave baseball better than he found it,” she said.
With both teams taking to the field wearing Halladay’s old number 32, Brandy noted that he’d likely have preferred to fly under the radar on this venture.
“Seeing an entire field of awesome little kiddos running around in that number — it makes you proud. It makes you feel like the time you spent here was important,” she said.
“He’d be so honoured, he’d be humbled, he’d be embarrassed, he didn’t like the attention,” Brandy said while wiping away tears. “Instead of standing here doing media, he’d be on the field, which says a lot about his character.”
Construction at the field began in 2019 after a $1-million donation from Jays’ care and additional funding from the city. The project was delayed due to COVID-19, but Mayor John Tory said he’s ecstatic this field will be available for everyone.
“The very fact this is here indicates the kind of organization that the Jays are, the kind of family that the kind of city that we’re aspiring for. Everybody’s included and nobody’s left behind,” Tory said.
Witchel added that the Jays hope to support future projects in the city, and they’re glad this one was completed for the more vulnerable members of society.
“This was a long time in the making and it’s so exciting to see the kids play. These kids deserve opportunities to play. They deserve to have friendship,” Witchel said.