Halladay always focused on the target

Pitching is more than a profession for Harry Leroy Halladay III.

It's a passion.

And on Saturday night, the Philadelphia right-hander better known in baseball circles as Roy added a night of perfection to his growing resume of greatness.

The former American League Cy Young Award winner whom Philadelphia acquired in the offseason to aid in its effort to claim a third consecutive NL pennant and a second World Series championship in three years, pitched the 20th perfect game in major-league history.

There was little margin for error in a 1-0 victory in which the only run was unearned.

And Halladay didn't make any.

He faced 27 Florida Marlins in the mugginess of Miami and retired all 27, including 11 with strikeouts, without the need of a believe-it-or-not defensive effort.

He threw the second perfect game in the majors this month -- joining Dallas Braden of Oakland -- and making this the first season, much less first month, of the modern era, which dates back to 1900, to feature two perfect games.

And it is the second nine innings of perfection in Phillies history.

It's not likely that Halladay will follow in the footsteps of the other Phillie of perfection, Jim Bunning, and become a United States Senator.

That, after all, has never been a driving ambition for Halladay.

Pitching, however, was a lifelong goal.

Halladay's dad, Harry Leroy Halladay Jr., built a batting cage and pitching mound in the basement of the family home in Arvada, Colo. At the age of 9, Harry Jr. approached the late Bus Campbell, a Colorado pitching guru, and asked if he would tutor his son. Campbell said he would if the father came back after the kid turned 12.

And three years later, the Halladays were there, reminding Campbell of the earlier encounter, creating a relationship that even today, two years and three months after Campbell's death, continues to flourish. Halladay has said on more than one occasion, Campbell's voice runs through his mind when he stands on a pitching mound.

"At first we'd always talk about pitching, but over the years, it was more of a comfortable conversation,'' Halladay said.

Campbell not only taught Halladay to pitch, he persuaded him to join the Arvada West High School cross-country team. Campbell explained it was a way to stay in shape, and Halladay would improve his endurance and add strength to his legs, a key element in limiting demands on the shoulder.

Campbell, the Toronto area scout, persuaded the Blue Jays to make Halladay a No. 1 draft choice in 2005. Until the day he died, Campbell recorded every game Halladay pitched off the feed from the satellite dish that Halladay bought for him, then broke down the games over the phone with his protege.

And when Halladay, who came within a two-out, ninth-inning home run of pitching a no-hitter in just his second big-league start, in 1998, began to flounder in 2000, Campbell was there to offer emotional support.

Things were so bad that Halladay was sent back in 2001 to low-A Dunedin, where he came to the realization that his problems were mental, not physical. The Jays brought in two sports psychologists, who along with the homespun wisdom of Campbell, helped Halladay correct the direction of his career.

"I had no comprehension of the mental part of baseball,'' he said. "I'd get negative things in my head. ... The mind would overtake what I wanted to do. I thought what I was thinking was the last thing that had anything to do with the way I was pitching. I always thought the problem was mechanics.''

There are no problems anymore. In the eight-plus years since he returned to the big leagues, he is 137-62, and a two-time 20-game winner, including a 22-win season in 2003 when he was voted the AL Cy Young.

To those who have known Halladay since his amateur days the success is no surprise.

Baseball was always his No. 1 employment goal.

There was no No. 2.

In the eighth grade, his teacher at Drake Elementary School, assigned the students an essay on what they wanted to be when they grew up, and warned, "Don't be submitting any silly goals. I don't want to read how you want to be President or a pro athlete.''

The perplexed eighth-grader, Roy Halladay, went home and had a serious conversation with his dad, wondering what else there was he could write about in the paper. The elder Halladay called the teacher.

"She said she wanted the children to be realistic,'' the elder Halladay once recalled. "I asked, `Why take dreams away? Whether kids fulfill their dreams is not up to you, it's up to them.''

Halladay has fulfilled the dream.

"The biggest problem with Roy growing up was not his ability,'' his father has said. "It was people saying to him, 'Do you realize how hard it is to make it?'

"I used to tell him he couldn't listen to these people, you can do anything you want to do.''

Father did know best.

And son has been even better.