Greg Halman was on the verge of breaking into baseball's consciousness. Fans in Seattle and elsewhere were about to hear a lot of the 24-year-old outfielder, poised to break out of the relative shadows of international and Minor League ball into the Mariners outfield. This is not how fans wanted to get to know the name. Victim of a fatal stab wound in his native Netherlands, his brother the primary suspect, Halman had already become one of the very few genuine Europeans to make it to the Majors. But he was only a few paces into what promised to be a long journey, begun seven years ago when the Mariners signed a spindly 16-year-old as an international free agent.
Halman made the most significant strides toward that objective this season. Promoted from Triple-A Tacoma in early June, he went 6-for-7 in his first two games and proceeded to hit .230 in 35 games before concluding the season back in the Minors. Scouting reports generally included him among MLB's Top 100 prospects for 2012, and featured references to his "plus-speed" and "tremendous power."
Indeed, Halman generated remarkable power from his lean, 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. Although not yet seen in Seattle -- where he hit two homers in a total of 116 at-bats, including his brief 2010 debut -- he put on quite a show in the Minors.Both during and before games. In a three-year stretch beginning in 2008, he cranked out 87 homers during a steady rise from Class A to Triple-A. In pregame batting practice, he could cut any ballpark down to size. "I saw him taking batting practice, and he was hitting the ball over the batter's eye," Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia recalled his first encounter with Halman, in the 2008 Arizona Fall League. "And I remember thinking, 'Whoa, who is this guy?' Then I remembered how young he was [21 at the time]." As a ballplayer, Halman was a perfect fit for his era. He definitely wasn't born too soon, but right on time. The toll of his power was a lack of strike-zone awareness that led to high strikeout totals, but as a very coachable and enthusiastic player, he was gaining the plate discipline to fulfill the destiny of his baseball genes. For Halman belonged to the unofficial first family of Dutch baseball, which of course only heightens the tragedy of the suspected circumstances of his death. His father, Eddy, preceded him on the Dutch national team. Also on the team was Jason, the younger brother now being questioned in his killing. Neither had Halman's horizon, however. In 2003, he made his domestic pro debut as a 16-year-old with Corendon Kinheim in his hometown of Haarlem. In 2005, at 18, he was chosen the Dutch Pro League's Most Valuable Player. In 2007, he helped the Dutch national team to the gold medal of the European Championship. As such, Halman played a huge role in baseball's surge in both popularity and quality in the Netherlands. Only last month, the Dutch upset Cuba in the championship game of the Baseball World Cup, becoming the first European team to win that title. All that now is part of Halman's legacy. The word heard most often in the wake of Halman's passing was "passionate." Seattle club chairman Howard Lincoln, Mariners club president Chuck Armstrong and general manager Jack Zduriencik, players union director Michael Weiner, the numerous players Tweeting their shock -- they all used that adjective to describe the Dutchman's feelings about the American game. But Halman was passionate about everything else that crossed his life path. Teammates recall him as fun-loving and gregarious. He was a sponge for knowledge. A June 2004 graduate of North Holland's Mendel College, Halman was fluent in four languages, adding Spanish to the list during his first season in the Minors, to allow him to forge relationships with Latin teammates. Jason Halman appeared to be dealing well with the big brother syndrome many face. He, too, made his Dutch pro debut at 16, following a sensational career in Juniors (he had an OPS of 1.100 as a DH in the 2004 World Junior Championship). However, while there is no trail of any extracurricular activities by Greg, his younger brother drew a 10-game suspension for his role in a 2008 Dutch Pro League brawl on May 18, 2008.