The shocking death of Greg Halman has hit the Mariners hard. This morning, as teammates heard the news, texts went out and phone calls were made. Brendan Ryan received a text from Jack Cust at 6 a.m. The two remain close and it was Greg who lockered between them when he was up with the big club this year.
“I am a little shocked,” Brendan said when I reached him by phone after asking if he would be up for talking about his teammate. “I think everyone doesn’t want to believe what we have heard. It makes no sense.”
Ryan may have been the biggest Mariners fan on the Mariners team. He was so enthusiastic about the younger players on the team and throughout the year spoke glowingly of Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley and Greg Halman.
“I was such an advocate, that guy was a specimen,” he said of Halman’s athletic talent. “Then you see his tools and think when he figures it out he could be a special, special player.
“The finesse, the action, all good action, he looked like he was developing a real good approach at the plate going to right-center. And some easy pop. He could run like a deer. I was really pulling for him. I really believed that he could be somebody with a chance to be up to great maybe. With those tools?”
It was the person, however, that stood out even more to Ryan than the athlete.
“I don’t think people got to know him well enough,” he said. “I feel privileged to have gotten to know him. I loved his sense of humor. He was a special guy who could talk some trash, which is always welcome in the clubhouse, but he was a rare breed who could take it as well as he could dish it. That earned my respect.”
Ryan said it was the sense of humor that initially drew him to Halman. Halman was always smiling and always had a quick line. Underneath his humor was always warmth. Never mean-spirited, always supportive, always in the end complimentary.
“I am going to miss his sense of humor,” Ryan said. “I am going to miss the energy he brought. He had a very warm energy about him that would liven up a conversation, liven up whatever area you were in. He was very positive.”
I relayed a funny story to Brendan that I remembered from earlier in the year. Cust was sitting at his locker, days before he would be let go with the team. He had just gone through another disastrous day at the plate and no doubt he sensed the end was near with him and the Mariners. Surprisingly, he had a smile on his face.
“How can I not be smiling with this guy next to me, bro,” he said, laughing. “I mean, they didn’t put Greg next to me so I could help him. He picks me up. He’s giving me the pep talks.”
Brendan laughed when I mentioned the reason for placing the rookie between the two of them. Halman, with little to no big league experience, was the influence on them.
“When I was down on myself after a tough game he was right there to tell you how good you really were,” Ryan remembered. “Very positive. Just a guy you gravitate towards because of that warm energy.
“It always seemed like he was in a good mood,” Ryan continued. “Always seemed like he had just got good news, whatever the news may have been. That stuff is contagious. There is not enough of that around. He was just coming from such a good place it helped. He just didn’t want to see you upset. It upset him to see you upset and that is a pretty wonderful thing.
“It is just a shame,” he concluded. “I am going to miss him. It is a guy you looked forward to seeing in the spring. One of the first guys you are going to want to wrap up in a bear hug when you first see him. It is going to take a long time to set in. You, me, we are all going to miss him.”