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roy halladay

Roy Halladay, seen sharing a laugh with catcher Rod Baraja earlier this season, has earned an extra $125,000 (U.S.) by being named to the AL All-Star team.NATHAN DENETTE/The Canadian Press

One of Roy Halladay's passions is to build remote-control model helicopters from scratch, a painstaking process that can stretch the limits of a person's patience. The hobby suits the Toronto Blue Jays' ace, a meticulous individual who prefers to finish what he starts, as demonstrated by the throwback number of complete games he has.

"It takes two months to build one of those things, and he once did two during the off-season because he broke one," said teammate and fellow pitcher Brian Tallet. "It's just an example of how passionate he is.

"When he sets his mind to do something, he gets it done."

The question now is whether Halladay, baseball's top workhorse starter, has determined that it's time to leave Toronto. General manager J.P. Ricciardi let it be known last weekend that the Blue Jays will entertain trade proposals prior to the July 31 trade deadline, and he wouldn't have broadcast the message publicly without consulting Halladay.

"Just from my experience with Roy, he's a very loyal guy, so I know he wants to get it done in Toronto," said Brad Madden, a lifelong friend of Halladay's who played with him on the same minor-league team growing up in Denver.

"But at the same time, he's as competitive as it gets, and he's at the point in his career where winning the World Series, or at least getting there, is starting to get pretty high on his priority list."

Halladay is putting together another excellent season, with a 10-3 record and 2.85 earned-run average. But the Blue Jays are falling out of contention, and even the most ardent of their fans would admit a shot at the World Series is probably years away.

Eligible for free agency after next season, Halladay is 32 and his value on the trade market may never be higher. On the other hand, the Blue Jays are unlikely to find anyone to adequately replace him.

On Tuesday in St. Louis, he will participate in his sixth All-Star Game, possibly as the American League's starting pitcher.

"He's the best pitcher in the league and has been for years, and I'd say that in front of anyone," said Pat Hentgen, Halladay's mentor when they pitched in the Jays' rotation. They are two-thirds of the three Jays to have won the Cy Young Award (Roger Clemens is the third).

"The schedule he throws against and the division he's in? I mean, all those starts every year against the Red Sox and the Yankees. How tough is that?" Hentgen added. "I remember when I went over to the National League, the pitchers didn't want anything to do with the American League. And he's been tearing it up his entire career."

Heading into next week's all-star break, Halladay owns a career record of 141-69. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of pitchers with as many victories as Halladay, only three in major-league history have won more than twice as many games as they've lost: Lefty Grove (300-141), Whitey Ford (236-106) and Pedro Martinez (214-99).

Since the 2003 season, Halladay has 38 complete games, 12 more than his closest rival, C.C. Sabathia. Halladay's total of 38 is equal to or higher than the team total of all but nine major-league clubs over the same period.

Beyond the numbers, just who would the Blue Jays be losing?

Harry LeRoy Halladay opted to go by his shortened middle name early on in life after being teased at school. Growing up in Denver, he was the only kid on the block with a batting cage in his basement.

"When my dad went looking for a house, one of the things he wanted to do was find a basement long enough," Halladay said in an interview this week. "He finally found a house where one section of the basement was 60 feet long and he chain-linked it. It was tight but we fit in there."

Today, he is a married father of two young boys. As a boy himself, "he was always throwing, always pitching," Madden said. "He was either in a fall league or a spring league. Even when he was playing basketball, he'd go and throw after basketball practice and stuff like that. I attribute that to why he can throw so many innings and he never gets too tired because he's been doing it since he was 10."

Halladay is normally the first player at the ballpark each day. His work ethic is legendary; former teammate A.J. Burnett, now a member of the New York Yankees, refers to him as "Animoid."

"He's there early, he's always doing something that's extra," Burnett said. "Even if he doesn't need it, he's doing extra.

"Some guys don't have that capability upstairs, they can't do that everyday throughout the season. But Roy can and that's what makes him what he is."

Halladay said his intensity toward the game is just something that has always been there.

"I think for me it's just kind of the way I'm built," he said. "I think some guys can go out there and be talkative and easygoing and that's good for them. I think I'm just the opposite. It's just kind of the way I'm wired."

Darrin Fletcher is a former Blue Jays catcher who got to know Halladay when Halladay was first starting to make his mark in the league.

"He's a private guy, but once you get to know Roy, he's got a heart of gold," Fletcher said. "He really is a great person to be around. He's a family man and I think he protects that. He just doesn't let anyone in."

Halladay says he loves playing in Toronto, but also says he wants to win. He may be thinking the two passions are mutually exclusive and that doesn't compute for the man who assembles model helicopters in his spare time.

"I enjoy putting things together," Halladay said.

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