Brandy Halladay happened to be holding her car keys when her husband talked about jumping out the window of their third-floor apartment near Dunedin, Fla., nine years ago. "I would jump out the window," Roy told his wife, "but with my luck I would only break my leg, and I'd still have to go back out on the mound." The macabre crack followed a declaration by Roy Halladay, a 23-year-old pitcher freshly demoted by the Blue Jays all the way to Class A ball, that he was too embarrassed to ever go back home to Colorado.
The couple and their sixth-month-old son, Braden, would have to make Florida their permanent home. They wondered if they had saved enough money for Roy to quit baseball and go back to school.
Brandy believed in following her instincts the way ancient sailors once did the moon and stars. Such a belief had served her well four years earlier, in 1997, when one of her girlfriends practically dragged her to play racquetball at a Denver-area gym to cheer her up—she had just changed jobs, moved back in with her parents and was driving a disagreeable Tercel. There she saw a tall, handsome young man lifting weights. He was wearing a T-shirt that said, WILL FISH FOR FOOD. She gave him her phone number, sensing, correctly, that he was too shy to ask for it. "Mom," she told her mother as soon as she got home, "today I met the man I'm going to marry."
Brandy was right about that. Now it was time to trust her gut again.
The car keys. Her gut told her to use them, to just go ... someplace for help. She jumped in the car and drove, thinking, We're done with baseball; but also thinking, Just give me one reason to keep him going. Just one reason.
She wound up at a Books-A-Million on U.S. 19. She started filling her arms with books. Books about depression. Books about self-esteem. Books about self-help. Anything that might pull Roy back from the brink.
And then she walked into the sports section. All the books stood obediently on the shelf, spines out, except for one that was lying down, cover up, as if it were waiting for her. When she saw its title she laughed out loud: The Mental ABC's of Pitching, by H.A. Dorfman. "That's amazing," she said to herself. "I can't believe there are enough people out there who would need a book like this."
She bought that book and nine others. Two of them were blank. Having been raised Mormon (though they are now nonpracticing), Brandy and Roy were encouraged to put their feelings in journals. She gave the books to Roy and explained why there were two journals. One was to be a repository of his personal feelings, the other a professional journal. In those blank pages Roy Halladay could define and track his goals. The Mental ABC's of Pitching would be his instruction manual.
Roy called his father back home in Colorado that night and said, "Dad, I'll work as hard as it takes to get back up."
At 4:45 a.m. one day in February a BMW with tinted windows pulled out of a driveway in Odessa, Fla., and headed south on U.S. 19. George Poulis, the trainer for the Blue Jays, happened to be driving the same road when he pulled up next to the BMW at a stop light. They were the only two cars on the road. Though he was unable to see the driver behind the darkened windows of the car, Poulis had a strong premonition.