The sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre will have something extra to cheer for Friday evening: Roy Halladay will be back in town to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the Blue Jays' Home Opener. Halladay gave the good news on his Twitter account (@RoyHalladay) this afternoon:
Just landed in Toronto!! Lot of great memories! Invited by the Jays to be a part of the Home Opener! pic.twitter.com/P5ZmXjzDjt— Roy Halladay (@RoyHalladay) April 3, 2014
Throwing the First Pitch! Wish Jeter was in the box! Think Ill throw a cutter.... Sorry Philly will be there soon! pic.twitter.com/ZbwRF8jMPS— Roy Halladay (@RoyHalladay) April 3, 2014
"Doc" was drafted by Toronto in the first round back in 1995 and he made his Rogers Centre (then SkyDome) debut on September 27, 1998 facing the Tigers. Of course, we all remember what happened in that game: Halladay no-hit the Tigers through 8.2 innings before Bobby Higginson slammed a solo shot to end the no-hit bid. He still won anyway, leading the 1998 Jays to their 88th win--no Jays team have won more games since. Halladay's last game in Blue Jays colours at the Rogers Centre came on September 25, 2009 against the Mariners, throwing a seven-hit complete game shutout, racking up nine strikeouts and walking none. Of course, Halladay did return to Toronto with the Phillies on Canada Day weekend in 2011, getting the win over the Jays in a complete game.
Following Roy Halladay's ceremonial first pitch will be Dustin McGowan's actual first pitch. The injury-plagued McGowan has only pitched seven games in April in his career, the last one being on April 30, 2008. He will also be making his first start since September 26, 2011. We shouldn't expect him to go too deep into the game--if he gets through five innings I would consider it to be a successful outing.
Earlier this year, McGowan told Bluebird Banter that Roy Halladay was the one person in the Blue Jays organization who had influenced him the most.
"When I was a rookie, he was essentially the best pitcher in baseball. It was an honour just to see him work every day. He showed us how to work, he showed us how to play the game the right way," McGowan recalled, "not many people get to say the got to play with him, and we’re lucky that we did. He’s the kind of guy where, if you start a conversation with him, he’ll talk to you. He’s a guy who’s all business."
The atmosphere's going to be electric, let's hope drunk idiots don't ruin it for the rest of us.