Outfielder Greg Halman robbed of promising future
Mariners outfielder Greg Halman loved playing the game. He had a big personality and talent to match.
Seattle Times staff columnist
On a lazy Sunday morning in early June, Greg Halman walked into the Mariners' clubhouse, glanced at the lineup card thumb-tacked to the team's bulletin board and broke out in a grin.
It seemed Halman always was smiling. This was a guy who loved playing the game. For him, every day was sunny. Every wall was ivied. Every game was another chance to shine.
He walked to his locker stall that Sunday and his empty uniform was draped on hangers, white and clean, a picture of the promise and expectation of the day ahead of him.
For the first time this season, Halman, recently recalled from Class AAA Tacoma, was in the starting lineup. He would be in center field, hitting ninth against the Tampa Bay Rays.
How could life possibly feel better than it did on that morning? The day was another prayer answered.
Before he left the clubhouse for pregame stretching, Halman was asked to describe his feelings. He talked about his boulder-strewn road from Tacoma to Seattle.
Halman broke his left hand in the fourth game of the Tacoma Rainiers' 2011 season. A plate and five screws were surgically inserted into the hand, and Halman recalled how devastated he felt after the injury.
He said his first thought was, "Oh, no, what does this mean for this year?"
At that moment, it must have seemed as if nothing in life could be more tragic.
"I didn't want to believe it," he said.
That's how all of Halman's friends and teammates and bosses felt Monday when they heard that the Mariners' 24-year-old outfield prospect had been stabbed to death in Rotterdam, in his home country of the Netherlands. His kid brother was arrested.
Less than six months after that optimistic Sunday, Greg Halman is dead, and the scenario of his death seems completely antithetical to who he was.
Halman was an inextinguishable smile. Good day or 0-fer, he acted the same.
"It's all good," he liked to say.
Even though he struggled to make it to the big leagues, Halman said he always dreamed big.
"This is what I want to do," he said that day. "This is what I dreamed about growing up at home. A lot of us did. I want to play this game as long as I can."
In a Mariners clubhouse that needed a shot of personality, Halman, in his too-short time there, provided it. Every player loves being a big-leaguer, but Greg Halman loooooved it. He was a let's-play-two guy.
He liked talking ball. He liked wearing the uniform. He liked standing in the cage and crushing pitch after pitch into the Safeco Field bullpens.
Halman was family. Signed at 16, he had grown up, and was still growing up, in the Mariners organization.
He was one of the team's most athletic players. A play-anywhere outfielder who could outrun lasers hit into the gaps. A power hitter who still was trying to patch the holes in his swing that left him flailing at too many pitches.
That Sunday at Safeco would be the best day of his baseball life.
He began it with an opposite-field single and scored on a triple by Ichiro. A couple of innings later, he launched a drive to deep right that Matt Joyce caught on the warning track.
Halman hit a triple into the right-center-field gap, scoring two and offering a glimpse of his crowd-wowing speed as he rounded the bases. He finished his day with a single to center in the eighth.
He put the barrel on the ball four straight times. The Mariners won 9-6 and, at that point in the young season, trailed Texas by just 2 ½ games.
Ballplayers remember these days forever. They reminisce about them with former teammates long after their retirements. They share these days with their children and their grandchildren.
But Halman won't get that chance.
He won't have any more days in the sun like that one, perfect Sunday.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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