“Though I’ve never met you
And we’ve spoke not a word
I’ll never forget you
Through the stories that I’ve heard”
– “Unknown Brother” by The Black Keys
I could not write this post yesterday. I was too pissed off. Too sad. Too hurt. It took me awhile to gather my thoughts on Greg Halman. I’m not sure if I can really pen it all out but I’ll try my best.
Greg Halman was a product of the Seattle Mariners since he was a young teenager. He came to this country as the rawest of the raw in regards to baseball prospects. You don’t have to look too far into your Google search to know not many players come from The Netherlands; Halman bucked that trend.
For a minor league system that struggled for much of the 2000’s, the Seattle Mariners did great by landing Halman. June 26, 2004 to be exact. Two days after I turned 21 years old. Yes, I still had (and still have) much ahead in my life but Greg Halman was two months to the day shy of turning 17. Think about that. 16 years old and signing with a professional baseball team. The odds were against him and he proved them wrong.
One of my most knowledgeable and creative minded friends Kenny Stein (@casetines) and I salivated at talking about the Mariners minor league system. It became “our thing”. Many friendships grow for various reasons, but with Kenny and I, talking minor league baseball has always been one of those things. Simply put, we both loved Greg Halman.
Halman grew through the Mariners farm system; he was home fed. The incredibly gifted 6‘4, 200-pounder spent seven seasons in the organization. For me, Halman “arrived” on the scene with my favorite minor league team, the Everett AquaSox. In 2007, he smacked 16 HR in 62 games with Everett and by all accounts, proved himself worthy of “prospect status”. But 2008 is when I really had the sunshine and lollipops dance in my head.
Greg was the Mariners’ minor league player of the year in 2008, when he hit a combined 29 HR with 31 stolen bases at Class A High Desert and Double-A West Tenn. He was rising up the charts so much that prestigious Baseball America ranked him as the #57 prospect before the start of the 2009 season. It felt like it was only a matter of time before he would be in the Emerald City dropping bombs on our A.L. West rivals.
But you know what, I’ll stop there with the stats. Yes, Greg Halman was a baseball player and stats often describe and define a player… but Halman was much more than a Mariner prospect. For Dutch baseball, he was an icon. His love for the game was the most evident I have seen in a ballplayer since Ken Griffey Jr. was growing into a man here in Seattle. Halman loved to smile. He loved to hustle. He loved to play the game of baseball at 110%.
For many of you who know me, the game of baseball has meant a lot to my life. Some days I’ll even go as far to say baseball saved my life. I never got the chance to play baseball past my early teenage years but that doesn’t mean my childhood dream had to die. Vicariously, through players like Greg Halman who savored every at-bat, every catch, every teammate’s accolade, I could still re-live it.
I never got the chance to meet Halman but I work with people that did and every single one of them have something nice to say. You don’t find that “real” genuine emotion towards a player too often nowadays. And it’s not because he was a professional athlete that he garnered this praise. They saw the hustle. They saw passion. They saw a little piece of themselves playing whiffleball in the backyard in Greg Halman.
That smile… man, that was infectious. Halman showed us why we love baseball.
The Seattle Mariners organization is reeling. Back-to-back Novembers with tragic losses. We as fans are hurting. We love this team. We love these players. We love to spend our money to watch the world’s best athletes entertain us with a game we love. Greg Halman gave us that. He gave us hope for a better tomorrow, a better team next season, better days in the future. He gave us his hustle and despite playing less than 100 career games with the M’s, he made his mark.
I remember when Greg was called-up and one of his first quotes was “all I want to do is bang”. I loved it! I appreciated his moxie, his confidence, his passion.
Greg Halman was a 24-year-old knocking at the door of potential stardom. The Mariners will honor him accordingly during the 2012 season with “GH” on their jerseys.
Halman spent a good portion of the last month of his life doing what he loved; being an ambassador to the game. He was on a European tour with other major league players and when they traveled to The Netherlands, he was treated like a rockstar. Reports say he was sought out for autographs and photos at baseball clinics in the same capacity as fellow traveler Prince Fielder.
Greg Halman, I will miss your passion. Thank you for everything you did for the game of baseball. Your legacy will live on forever and someday soon other Europeans will be giving you kudos for them reaching the bigs. You’re gone but never to be forgotten.
Your life in baseball was such joy… R.I.P. to you, my unknown brother.