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PHILADELPHIA – As usual when batting practice ended on Saturday the Philadelphia Phillies headed for the first base dugout.
Some couldn’t wait to get inside to the air-conditioned clubhouse.
Others headed to the video room for one final look at Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum and others wanted a Red Bull.
“You could see Roy Halladay walking across the infield, deep in his mode of concentration, and then he saw Isaac,” said Andrew McFadyen. “Roy’s face lit up … and so did Isaac’s.”
For the next 15 minutes Halladay stayed on the field with Isaac, 5, his younger brother Gabriel, four, and parents Ellen Buck-McFadyen and Andrew McFadyen, of Campbellford, Ont.
Halladay, his wife Brandy, and young Isaac have been pals for a few years since Isaac arrived at the Rogers Centre in Doc’s Box one weekend afternoon from Sick Kid’s Hospital.
You know about Halladay, his wins, his strikeouts, his complete game and bringing groups to Rogers Centre and Citizens Bank Park,
You may not know a lot about brave young Isaac.
At 18 months, in November of 2005, he was diagnosed with Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome, or MPS VI. The unfair disease is caused by an enzyme deficiency, which stunts growth and causes joints to stiffen and heart valves to fail.
Isaac’s health is as good as it has ever been up to this point, according to his father, who says Isaac’s growth is progressing at a slower pace, but he has more mobility in his shoulders of late.
Treatments at Sick Kids, where he gets a weekly enzyme-replacement therapy, were moved up because of the G-20 Summit this past week. The treatments are Isaac’s lifeboat until a cure for his disease is discovered.
Isaac gets a synthetic version of the enzyme lacking in his blood.
The door-to-door process from Campbellford takes about 12 hours and comes in at a cost of about $500,000 to
1 million a year. The McFayden family credits Christina Blizzard of Sun for helping get government approval.
“I can’t speak more highly of Roy and Brandy,” Andrew McFadyen said from his downtown Philadelphia hotel.
“They are class acts, kind and caring. They truly go out of their way to make the world a better place for those around them. They use their position to give back and I think that is what makes the Halladays so amazing.”
The McFadyens arrived in town at 1 a.m. Saturday making the 81/2 hour drive from Kingston where McFayden teaches, missing Halladay’s seven scoreless innings for the win Friday. McFadyen was on a class trip Friday and could not get away earlier to get to Philadelphia in time for Halladay’s start.
And early Sunday morn they were on the road home.
In the Phillies clubhouse on Sunday, Halladay walked past us with the purposeful stride.
“Do you have a minute?”
“Nope, I’m way behind, running late, sorry, no time,” Halladay said over his left shoulder without breaking stride.
“Ah, it’s about Isaac.”
Halladay put on the breaks like a runner leading off first who sees a line drive at the shortstop’s head.
“It was nice to see him for the first time since last season and he looked great, which is a real good sign,” Halladay said. “He’s always been energetic, he told me he was a better pitcher than I am, but he needs some more practice.”
Brandy Halladay set up the tickets and the on-field passes for the McFaydens. They were on the field for 45 minutes and centre fielder Shane Victorino stopped by encouraging Isaac to heave balls on to the field during batting practice.
“Isaac gave me a high-five, as always, and stung my hand,” Halladay said. “Like last year when he came out of the first base dugout (at the Rogers Centre) over to our dugout.”
In 2008, Halladay was presented the fifth annual George Gross/Toronto Sun Sportsperson of the Year – the first pro athlete to win the honour. Legendary former editor Lou Clancy presented Halladay a $1,000 cheque last April before the Jays played the Detroit Tigers.
Halladay donated the cheque to the Isaac Foundation (theIsaacfoundation.com) and matched it himself.
After a big on-field hug on Saturday, Halladay squatted.
Isaac pitched to the gangly catcher in front of the Phillies dugout Saturday afternoon. That was Isaac’s favourite part of the visit, according to his father.
Isaac presented Halladay with his custom-made Isaac Foundation softball jersey with No. 32 on the back, the number Halladay wore with the Jays. When Isaac realized Halladay was wearing
No. 34 with the Phillies, he told his favourite player: “Just add two more.”
Isaac and Gabriel watched Halladay open and then read the card they made for him at the Sick Kids last week …
It was Halladay pitching … an orange.
After Halladay’s perfect game 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins, his e-mail in box was full with well wishers and people sending notes of congrats.
One e-mail stood out:
“Congratulations, enjoy everything that’s coming to you this evening.
From the McFaydens.”
Halladay answered the e-mail.
“We’ve been in contact with Brandy all the time and she often sends notes to Roy,” said McFayden, who had seats behind the Phillies dugout. “We don’t get to see him on TV for the Jays any more, but we listen to games on MLB network.”
Halladay also keeps in touch with Sean Clayton, who he met through the Make A Wish Foundation.
The Jays beat the Phillies 5-1 Saturday in the McFayden’s lone game in Phillie.
“Mostly, Isaac was impressed how hot it was during the game,” McFayden said.
While McFadyen lives in Campbellford, he teaches at Winston Churchill Public School in Kingston. In the efforts of full disclosure, it is a school we attended for two years and never once skipped class: Kindergarten (Miss Preston) and Grade 8
(Mr. Neil Joynt).
“Brandy and I believe in the Foundation,” Halladay said. “There is not really a lot of awareness for the illness.”
In April last year we remember asking Isaac his favourite player at the St. Louis Bar and Grill before Isaac made his way across to the Rogers Centre.
Isaac stood tall, threw his neck back and as if howling at the moon, to let out a loud yell:
However, you pronounce the pitcher’s name, Halliday.
Halladay and Isaac have a deep friendship unchanged by the either the colour of a uniform or a city.