By Shannon Drayer
This is incredibly hard. By now you most likey have heard the tragic news that Greg Halman was killed in Holland.
The Mariners have lost one of their own, and a special one at that. Greg was like many players that come up in the organization in that we got to know of him first on paper and then in person. We heard about the majestic home runs, the athleticism, the potential, and years later we would meet him. What we got to know was a kid different from most that I have seen come up over the years.
As a rookie, Greg Halman didn’t hide the excitement he had about playing in the major leagues. (AP)
One of the first times I remember seeing him was in the clubhouse in spring training. He was doing the rookie thing — be seen but not heard. But there was something different with Greg. He had the wide-eyed, oh-isn’t-it-great-to-be-here look that so many feel inside but fight to not to show. Wouldn’t be cool. Not Greg. He was clearly thrilled to be where he was.
That look of wonder never left him and was never so large as the day when Ken Griffey Jr. walked through the clubhouse. He could hardly contain himself. It was like Christmas morning. Isn’t that what it should be like for these young guys in the clubhouse? He got that.
He had an appreciation for where he was, not only in baseball but in life. He could talk easily with anyone. Last spring training while we were doing a Cactus League Report show from the Salty Senorita in Peoria, I looked into the crowd and saw him sitting down and talking to my mom. He was scheduled to be a guest on the show and had gotten there early. My mom was at a table with some Mariners fans and they invited him to sit down. He did, and he spent the next 30 minutes talking with them. He couldn’t have been nicer.
The next day I caught up with him in the clubhouse and thanked him for spending time with them.
“That was your mom?” he asked. “She’s a real nice lady.”
I told him that my mom was very impressed with him and he smiled. It seemed to mean something to him.
Greg was someone that you could talk to when you found yourself in some of the far too many idle minutes while you are waiting for your interview. I remember a special conversation we had in New York. We talked about the trip that he took to the United States from Holland when he was a kid. His parents wanted him to see big league baseball. We talked about what he would do in the offseason — travel. This was a kid who had a fascination about the world. When he wasn’t playing baseball or working out this kid was traveling across Europe and seeing the sights and meeting the people.
He wanted to take teammates with him. He talked about taking Brendan Ryan and some of his younger teammates. He felt that they were missing out by staying home. There was a world to experience and he wanted his teammates to see this. To that end he participated in a big league tour of Europe just weeks ago along with two other Dutch players, Adam Jones and Prince Fielder. I can imagine he was thrilled to show them his country.
Greg spoke four languages and as such mixed well with everyone in the clubhouse. Others saw his enthusiasm, too, and I have no doubt it endeared him to many. When Adam Kennedy took him under his wing and showed him the big league ropes Greg rewarded him by calling him “his uncle.” More than once I saw Robby Thompson shake his head and laugh at not what Greg said, but the way he said it. He was a big kid.
He was a guy that wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. He was intelligent and he was curious. He knew he had his whole life ahead of him and that meant after baseball, too. He got it. He got the big picture. And now he is gone.
Greg Halman was a sweet, sweet, kid who had a smile for everyone and his eyes open to the world and its possibilities. This hurts.