Columbia County has built an incredible reputation for producing some amazing baseball teams and players over the last 50 years. There are some prominent baseball families that stand out for sure.
The first that comes to mind for most people would be the Holders and for good reason. However, you also have names like Thornhill, Belcher, Childers, Hayslip, Black and Combs that standout too. Well, you should not have to go too far down the list to find the name Halliday.
Chris “Doc” Halliday was a part of two state championship teams at Evans and authored possibly the single greatest sports moment in county history. His brother, Nick Halliday, was a standout for the Knights as well. When Evans lost to Lassiter in the 1996 state playoffs – a team that featured hard throwing Georgia Tech signee Scott Prather – many of the Knights struggled at the plate, but Nick seemed to have no trouble producing base hits nearly every time he stepped in the batter’s box. And of course, there was Bob and Barbara Ann Halliday, the two boy’s parents. Few parents have logged more time at the ball fields in Columbia County these two.
For all of the incredible moments and games for Evans in the 90s, Bob was right there, and he became one of Terry Holder’s dear friends. Barbara Ann was there as well cheering her boys on at each and every game. And they continue to do the same to this day for their grandkids. You could search for a long, long time and you would not find any finer people or supportive parents and grandparents than the Hallidays. That is why when the news came that their oldest son Chris had passed away last week it rocked the entire county.
Chris was an outstanding catcher and power hitter. He was drafted twice by the New York Yankees. He also had a reputation for coming through in the clutch. The biggest moment undoubtedly came during the 1993 Class AAAA State Finals. He came to bat in the bottom of the 17th inning with Evans trailing 2-1 and launched a game-ending walk-off two-run homer to give Evans the 3-2 victory and its fourth state crown.
After high school, he signed with ABAC and played JUCO ball for two years before signing to play at Kennesaw State in Marietta. He helped lead the Owls to the 1996 National Championship. In the title game versus Saint Joseph’s, Halliday once again showcased his clutch gene as he went three for four at the plate with a single, a double and a homer. He also drove in three of the Owls’ four runs in their 4-0 victory. For his efforts he was named the College World Series Most Valuable Player.
So, for many people when you think of Chris, the word “clutch” certainly comes to mind. The definition of a “clutch performer” is someone who comes through for the team when needed most. When the game is on the line these special athletes are focused on making the right play for the team.
Well, that certainly fits when describing Chris, but he was much more than just a ball player. Chris was clutch when he was his younger brother’s protector when they were young. He was clutch when he gave him pep talks when Nick was struggling on or off the field. He was clutch when he married his high school sweetheart, Lisa, and was faithfully by her side for more than 30 years. He was clutch because of the countless hours he spent throwing to his daughter, Camryn, 17, and son Patrick, 14, or showing them the skills to play catcher like their dad.
He was clutch because, no matter how worn out he was from work, he found time to coach both kid’s teams and travel to the southeast each weekend for tournaments. He was clutch because, despite only coaching in college for a brief time, countless coaches have talked about how he got them into coaching or helped their career. He was clutch for the hundreds of young people he coached and mentored through various leagues and with complete game. Those are the qualities and actions that made “Doc” truly Clutch.
Chris led a storybook life. He married his high school sweetheart. He had two smart and talented kids. He was successful in business and was a great family man. He ended his high school baseball career by hitting a home run to win a state title in his final at bat. He led his team to college National Championship by winning MVP honors. That seems storybook to me, the only problem – this book’s ending was not what anyone wanted to see.
I just hope the entire family knows that Chris’ imprint on our area has not ended. It will last a long, long time. Not just with the incredible memories he left us with from his playing days, but with the friendship, mentorship, and guidance he provided for so many people over the years. There is no doubt Chris “Doc” Halliday will never be forgotten.