Halladay's number retired by AFL
Blue Jays ace also receives Distinguished Alumni Award
MESA, Ariz. -- Roy Halladay holds a special place in Arizona Fall League history. Of all the great pitchers and players to don uniforms in the developmental circuit, none were able to accomplish what Halladay did in 2003.
The Blue Jays right-hander went 22-7 that season and became the first AFL product to win the Cy Young Award. The four-time All-Star also finished third in Cy Young voting in 2006 and subsequently was joined by Chris Carpenter (2005, Cardinals) and Brandon Webb (2006, Diamondbacks) as the only AFL alumni to win a Cy Young.
Halladay, who was inducted to the AFL Hall of Fame last season, was recognized by the league Thursday night in Mesa prior to the game between the Solar Sox and Phoenix Desert Dogs. In addition to having his number retired, Halladay was presented with the league's second Distinguished Alumni Award. He joins Albert Pujols, who was honored on Opening Night last month.
"This is a great honor," Halladay said. "You hear some of the names of the people who have been here and you realize there were a lot of good and successful players. I remember how tough it was when I came here, even coming out of Triple-a. There was so much raw talent here.
"You saw some guys here that opened your eyes. It was a fun place to play and a real challenge. It was a very good environment."
Halladay pitched for Grand Canyon (now Surprise) in 1998 and earned a spot on the Baseball Arizona All-Star Team. He and Troy Percival are the only pitchers in the AFL Hall of Fame.
While he was elected last year, family commitments prevented Halladay from attending the ceremony. He and his wife, Brandi, were on their way to a vacation in Hawaii this year and made a point of stopping in Arizona for the ceremony. Halladay's plaque already hangs in the AFL Hall of Fame at Scottsdale Stadium, but now he'll also have a retired jersey hanging on the outfield wall.
"I talked to them [the AFL] last year and I wanted to be here," Halladay said. "But we had so many things to do with the kids. We felt that this was something, though, that if we had a chance to do it, we would. This is important for the league. And we were going on vacation, so this worked out well.
"I think people here [in Arizona] are starting to realize how good the preparation is here and how much talent is coming out of it [the AFL]." The ceremony honoring Halladay wrapped up a big week for the AFL. The league inducted Jermaine Dye and Torii Hunter to its Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Scottsdale. Ken Macha and Derrek Lee also were enshrined, with Macha's ceremony taking place Wednesday night at Scottsdale Stadium.
Then, when Gold Glove winners were named on Wednesday, there was a distinct AFL flavor to the announcement as eight former Fall League stars were among the recipients. Orlando Cabrera (Angels), Jeff Francoeur (Braves), Russ Martin (Dodgers), Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand (Phillies), Grady Sizemore (Indians), David Wright (Mets) and Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) are AFL alumni who won their first Gold Gloves this season. There are now 27 former AFL players who have been so honored.
"This is very rewarding," said AFL executive vice president Steve Cobb. "The players that have performed here and excelled at the Major League level is a testament to the caliber of players we get here in the AFL. And it's nice that someone [like Halladay] is making right on what he said he would do.
"Roy has gone out of his way to be here and we appreciate it. He's a high-character guy with an outstanding work ethic. I'm grateful that we saw fit to elect him to our Hall of Fame."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.