Words cannot describe how shocked we all are by the death of Greg Halman.
Greg was a popular guy in the Rainiers front office, for both those that knew and worked with him in team-related events, and others who simply enjoyed watching him play.
We know he was popular with Rainiers fans, too.
A blur of memories…
Rainiers manager Daren Brown was completely stunned when he heard the news today. Brown managed Halman in Tacoma the last two years, and he was also the Mariners interim manager when Halman made his MLB debut and collected his first major league hit last September.
Brown said that, as a coach in the M’s organization, you watch these kids grow up. Halman signed at age 17 and spent the last seven years developing and maturing in the Mariners system.
Daren pointed out that Halman’s minor league teammates are going to have a particularly tough time coping with this. Guys like Mike Wilson, Mike Carp, Matt Mangini and Matt Tuiasosopo spent years as Halman’s teammate and developed close relationships with him.
For many of us in Tacoma – perhaps including you – our first experience with Greg came at the 2010 pre-season “meet the team” event at the Hotel Murano. Halman was just 22 at the time, about to make his Triple-A debut.
Halman showed up at the dinner decked out in a blazing cream-colored suit, with accompanying jewelry, causing Ryan Divish to immediately label it a “Miami Vice” suit.
A snappy suit was always a Halman hallmark on Rainiers team flights.
As you know, Halman was Dutch. He grew up in Europe and played on various Dutch all-star teams before the Mariners signed him, and he continued to play when the Dutch National Team congregated for events like the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The Netherlands just won the gold in the Baseball World Cup, but Halman was ineligible to play because he was on a major league 40-man roster.
Halman was a big supporter of European baseball. Since he wasn’t able to play in the World Cup, he instead joined fellow Dutch major leaguer Rick VandenHurk organizing a tour of Europe to put on baseball clinics.
Among the players to join Halman and VandenHurk were Adam Jones and Prince Fielder. The program just ended about ten days ago.
Halman spoke four languages. He grew up speaking Dutch, learned English in school, and picked up Spanish via baseball. He also learned the island language of the Netherland Antilles, Papiamento, although he was quick to admit that he wasn’t real fluent in it.
Around baseball – where Halman spent the last seven years of his life – he spoke English and Spanish.
I remember vividly when VandenHurk and the New Orleans Zephyrs visited Tacoma during the 2010 season. Hours before the game, VandenHurk and Halman had a long, long conversation in front of the Tacoma dugout.
We’re talking about a good 25-to-30 minute conversation, on the field, about four hours before the game. This is unusual.
I asked Halman about it, and he said that it just felt so great to actually be able to speak Dutch with somebody. It made him homesick.
Halman’s favorite English words were the ones he didn’t learn in school. Despite a lack of formal scholastic training, he was able to use these words in very creative and colorful ways, often with a big smile on his face.
Sadly, this renders many of the funniest Halman stories un-bloggable.
Halman had no trouble turning off the colorful language when the situation called for it.
Greg made a good number of community appearances on behalf of the Rainiers and Mariners. In particular he made multiple visits to the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
The Tacoma Rainiers Facebook page has a picture of Halman visiting with a young fan in the dugout.
Lots of Mariners media members and players are tweeting about how Halman always greeted them so warmly, with a big grin.
That goes for me, too. In particular, he and Carp were the first players to greet me in the clubhouse when I made my Mariners radio debut on June 30. It was before the game and I was nervous, and spending five minutes talking to those guys really helped.
Everybody loves winning, and Greg Halman was no exception. You know what Halman enjoyed most about winning?
Winning meant that he was allowed – encouraged, in fact – to dump containers of liquid on people’s heads.
When it comes to championship celebrations, nobody was more excited to give you a beer or champagne shower than Greg Halman.
Just ask the Rainiers team doctor, Dr. Popich.
Halman made sure that Rainiers Director of Baseball Operations Ashley Roth properly celebrated her first PCL title.
Top Five Tacoma Single-Season Home Run Totals
The news story is sad, and as details emerge it’s probably only going to get sadder. Instead of trying to understand something that is not understandable, many are sharing their own stories.
- Shannon Drayer remembers Greg warmly.
- Larry LaRue has player reaction.
- Larry Stone talked to Halman’s agent for some perspective.
- Rainiers team president Aaron Artman had respectful words.
- Jeff Sullivan wrote out his frustration.
- Rainiers reliever Dan Cortes is devastated.
- Geoff Baker writes that Halman was an icon of Dutch baseball.
- Photographer Paul Marsh picked out this one.
We’ll miss you, Greg.