"He's kind of standoffish, I guess you would say, until you get to know him," said Oswalt, who came to Philadelphia from Houston by trade in late July. "Then he opens up a little bit after you're around him for a while. All pitchers have a set routine, but he may put himself in the so-called 'zone' a little longer than most people. On days he pitches, he's pretty locked in."
Halladay's reservoir of commitment runs so deep, it's even made an impression on Philadelphia's resident pitching elder. Jamie Moyer broke into the big leagues during the Reagan administration, reinvented himself a few times through the years, passed the 250-win barrier while throwing a fastball in the low 80s and showed enough resourcefulness this year to pitch a shutout at age 47. People tell Moyer that Curt Schilling was an amazingly diligent preparer. But he's never seen anything to compare with Halladay's single-minded pursuit of excellence.
"You want to talk, eat, sleep and drink baseball? That's this guy," Moyer said. "Every waking moment, from what I know of him, is focused on his job or preparing for his next start. He's not here to be your best friend. He's here for a purpose, and that's to win baseball games. He wants to win so bad."
When Moyer sits on the bench, he'll glance over and see Halladay locked in on the opposing pitcher during warm-ups between innings. Moyer was recently passing through the clubhouse when Halladay summoned him for a brief consult. Halladay held a piece of paper in his hands and was comparing two still photographs of himself in mid-pitching motion, and he was studying them with the intensity of an architect poring over blueprints. In Halladay's world, no detail is too trivial to make a difference.
Halladay expresses great admiration for Utley, Philadelphia's second baseman, and he's carved out a similar leader-by-example niche in the Phillies' clubhouse. It has to warm manager Charlie Manuel's heart when he looks down the bench and sees Cole Hamels or one of the other young pitchers gravitating toward Halladay's section of the dugout.
"It would be real easy for Roy to say, 'I've won 20. I've had a good career. I just signed a big deal, and I came over to the National League and I'm just going to sail through it all,'" Moyer said. "No. That's not what you're getting out of this man. He's the real deal, and a lot of guys here have seen something pretty special. If they aren't aware of it, they've missed the boat. They really have."
Past, present and future
As Halladay enters the next chapter of his career and makes his Hall of Fame push, it's only natural to reflect upon the events that brought him to this point. Magazine and newspaper profiles have duly noted the influence of three men who helped shape his mindset and alter the trajectory of his career. After his father, who is also named Roy, they've helped lay his foundation and been at the forefront of each catharsis in his baseball life.
The first major influence, Bus Campbell, was a Colorado-based coach and scout who worked with the teenaged Halladay and always provided a trusted voice in the hard times. Campbell died two years ago at age 87.
The second, Mel Queen, was a plain-spoken Blue Jays coach who turned his career around in 2001. Halladay, then 23, showed up on his doorstep with a 10.64 ERA and a fractured psyche, and Queen broke him down and built him back up with a Marine drill sergeant's intensity and fervor. Halladay, who had formerly thrown straight over the top, swapped his 12 o'clock arm angle for something closer to 10 o'clock, and the impact was immediate and profound. Much of the nasty, late-breaking movement on his pitches is traceable to that mechanical change.
Halladay's third major influence, sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, wrote the book that defines his approach to the game. "The Mental ABC's of Pitching" covers 80 separate topics from A ("Adjustments," "Adversity" and "Attitude") all the way to Z ("Zeros"). The book is Halladay's constant companion, and he thinks every organization should distribute it to pitchers the moment they get drafted.
"His whole mantra is, 'One pitch at a time,'" Halladay said of Dorfman, "and basically the book is about helping you get to that point. Different things might come up and distract you or complicate things, but the bottom line is being able to go out and go pitch-to-pitch."
Halladay has overcome his share of adversity through the years. He made only 21 starts in 2004 because of shoulder tendinitis, and missed the final three months of the 2005 season after suffering a broken leg on a Kevin Mench line drive through the box. Moyer has talked to him about the need to back off his grueling work regimen and allow for some recovery time as he gets older, and Halladay will have to make that determination as he goes.
Contrary to public perception, Halladay is capable of shedding his Robo-pitcher persona and having fun now and then. It usually happens in the winter months, when he recharges his batteries with a number of off-field pursuits.
Halladay enjoys fishing, whether it's fly-fishing in his native Colorado or trolling for bass in Florida. Golf is a nice diversion, too, although he's wild off the tee and "very inconsistent." The perpetual kid in Halladay loves go-carts and model airplanes, and he's spent lots of hours in the garage at home rebuilding a 1932 Ford.
"I took it apart to the ground and realized I'm a little over my skis," Halladay said. "So I'm getting a little help with that."
Halladay used to be big on household repairs, until his wife, Brandy, decided it would be better to call in the professionals. And while his contract with the Phillies forbids it, he talks wistfully about taking to the air one day -- as in, getting in a cockpit and flying a plane.
But that's all fun, down-the-road stuff, and Halladay is too consumed with the here and now to tolerate distractions. Come Wednesday, he will rely on his ability and rare brand of commitment and take the first step toward a championship ring.
In this, the biggest game of his career, Halladay will be all business when he stares in for the first sign from Carlos Ruiz. The Reds hitters would be wise to bring their A-game.
Jerry Crasnick is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to purchase a copy of his book, "License to Deal," published by Rodale. Crasnick can be reached via e-mail.