My thoughts on the tragic death of Greg Halman

Greg Halman works with Matsu molendijk, a 10at a baseball clinic in the Netherlands earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners)

The news of Greg Halman’s death hit like a punch in the gut for all who knew him Monday morning.

Senseless, pointless, tragic, all those phrases we come up with in an attempt to fill the empty space and answer questions when a young man dies for no apparent reason.

Word from the Dutch media is that Halman allegedly got in a fight with his younger brother over loud music and Jason Halman, 22, brought out a knife and stabbed him. Greg Halman’s girlfriend called police, who arrived too late to save him.

That’s what is being reported in the Netherlands anyway, where they’ll try to figure out the what and the why.

Here in the United States, the day was spent getting reaction from teammates and those who knew Halman. We have several of those stories up on Mariners.com and I’d recommend reading them all to get a full persective on a vibrant youngster whose life ended far too early.

From my perspective, Halman was one of the most easy-going, friendly professional athletes I’ve ever dealt with.

A year ago at this time, I called Halman in the Netherlands and did a story on his work with youngsters in his homeland, where he wanted to help grow the sport of baseball. That gave us a nice bond when we both got to Spring Training last February and he always greeted me by name with the big smile that accompanied him everywhere.

He did another of those European baseball tours this past month and the Mariners sent me a couple photos of him working with Dutch kids, but I figured I’d already done that story and didn’t chase him down again. Now I wish I had.

Every time I talked to Halman, I was struck by what a great kid he was, whether it was after a tough loss or a game where he made a key play. This was a guy who wasn’t caught up in trying to act self-important. He was accommodating, gracious, happy to just talk baseball or anything else when he was sitting around in the clubhouse.

When Mother’s Day approached and I had to get a couple players on videotape talking about their moms, I hit up Halman in the dugout one afternoon and was blown away by how natural and smooth he was in immediately whipping off a “Happy Mother’s Day” message not only to his own mom, but “all the mother’s in the world” in a thoughtful, caring response.

Wouldn’t you know it, I discovered later that I’d hit the wrong button and failed to record his message – hey, I’m a writer, not a broadcaster. But when I approached Halman the next day and told him I’d messed it up, he just said, “No problem. Let’s do it again.” And he knocked out another version without blinking an eye.

Maybe that sounds like a little thing, in the big scheme, but in my world that’s a great example of an athlete who gets it, a guy who isn’t too big for himself and doesn’t take his situation for granted.

As the season progressed, Halman didn’t play a ton and wound up getting sent back to Tacoma for the final weeks. But he was an excellent and promising athlete, an intriguing blend of speed and power. I figured if Franklin Gutierrez struggled, Halman was the next-best center field option at this point for the Mariners.

I was curious how he’d come back to Spring Training this year, if the added season would benefit his bat and propel him to a permanent place in the Majors.

Instead, we’ll never find out. Instead, his parents will be burying their son in the Netherlands. his brother will be left with a life-long burden and we’ll be left to wonder why.

Senseless. Pointless. Tragic. Yeah, all of that. And more than anything, just sad.

2 Comments

Dear Greg,
I wish to thank you for the nice blog you have written about Gregory, it is a tragedy what happened. The boy you see on the picture with Gregory is our son Matsu, he was trained in Utrecht by Gregory and was inspired by him. The last few weeks all he talked about was Gregory Gregory Gregory, about his career and about all Gregory told and learned him that special day of the European Big League Tour. Yesterday he was really upset and sad about the terrible news but today we were somewhat proud to see the picture of them together on your blog and of course on the site of the Seattle Mariners. My son as lost his hero but we will treasure the memories.
Regards,
Louise Molendijk

I loved watching him rising in the ranks……I too was looking to see if our “Flying Dutchman” was ready to be more of a full timer this comming Spring.
So Sad….;-/
Thnx Mr. Johns for always being there to cull the info for us so well. I know it’s your job, but you do it well.
Thanks again and Condolences and comfort to Family and Friends of Halman.

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